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Lupita was every bit the Cinderella in high school

The Nairobi roots of Hollywood Star and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o came alive during a recent visit to St. Marys School, where she honed her skills.

Teachers in whose hands Lupita passed through vividly recalled her as an above average student with a special interest in drama and theatre.

She was thrust into the school’s spotlight-quite literally, when she starred in the annual school play ‘Cinderella.’ She played the main role of the fairy tale princess.

It was perhaps a premonition of what lay ahead, as Lupita looked every bit the princess in the ‘Nairobi Blue’ Prada gown she wore at the March 2 Oscars. 

Creative things

The school’s records indicate that Lupita was a student between the 2000 and 2001 and pursued an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. She was about 17 years-old.

“They were required to study six academic subjects and in addition they were to participate in the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) for a minimum of 50 hours. They had to engage in creative things like musical instruments, singing and acting. Lupita chose acting,” said Mr Gregory Sang, her former teacher and now the head teacher of senior school. 

The Star took the IB theatre Arts Class and it was a requirement of the theatre arts syllabus that students take active part in at least two major theatre productions. 

According to Mr Sang who taught her environmental systems, Lupita was a cheerful student and there was never a dull moment in the class of 2001. 

“She was an average student. A little cheeky, but in a good way. She always made the class lively. She was hard working and focused. I remember she joined the class midway in first term but I was impressed at how fast she caught up,” says Mr. Sang.

Under the tutelage of her drama teachers- Mr Oloo Nyamwaya and Mrs Beatrice Bwali- who are currently out of the country, Lupita’s rise to stardom began and eventually crystalised into a glamorous, celebrated life in the world’s largest movie industry, Hollywood. 

To say that her performance as Cinderella in the school play was phenomenal only scratches the surface of what the performance really was, Mr Sang said. 

“People had never seen that side of her,” he said. “She wasn’t visible in school until that play. I was amazed by her performance on stage. She looked like Cinderella. She was Cinderella. She had a prominent role and she pulled it off very well,” he continued. 

That same year, Lupita was declared the National Junior Actress of the year at the 2001 Mbalamwezi Theatre Awards for her sterling performance as Natalya in Anton Chekhov’s ‘The proposal’.

The play had been staged at the British Council Auditorium in July 2000. From then on, it was only a matter of when, not ‘if’ Hollywood would discover Lupita. 

Princess’s gown

But Lupita was not all about drama and theatre. According to Mr Sang’s class records, she did well in her final examinations, scoring a mean grade of 6 out of a maximum of seven, coming second in her class.

In fact, she came second to her best friend Belinda Odera, whom they were inseparable. 

A scan through the school’s year book shows just how popular Lupita was at school, with her photograph appearing several times in the book.

In one instance, she is photographed on stage wearing a white princess’s gown and a tiara. In another, she is standing next to Gatumia Waithaka- her co-star in the Cinderella play.

She is also on the front row of the IB class of 2001, her hair braided and legs crossed and arms neatly folded. 

The school has planned a special performance to in honour of Lupita during its 75th anniversary celebration slated for September.