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Lupita’s big night at the Oscars

She has dazzled the world since her breakout role in the movie 12 years a slave, picking up various awards and lighting up the red carpet with her glamorous sense of fashion.

And early Monday morning, as Kenyans join millions around the world in watching the biggest night on the movie calendar broadcast live from Los Angeles, Lupita Nyong’o will be making history as the first Kenyan in contention for an Oscar. 

Lupita, daughter of outgoing ODM secretary general Anyang’ Nyong’o, already made history last year when she was nominated by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences for the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Patsey in the gruelling film about slavery. 

Prof Nyong’o, together with other family members, have travelled to California to attend the awards ceremony. 

The actress, who turned 31 on Saturday, is pitted against Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) and June Squibb (Nebraska).

And the good news for eastern Africa does not end there. Another entrant, Somali-born Barkhad Abdi, has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the leader of a pirate gang in the film Captain Philips

The story is based on the 2009 hijacking of the US container ship Maersk Alabama by a band of Somali pirates. 

Abdi escaped from war-torn Somalia with his family to Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

But Kenyans’ attention will, undoubtedly, be fixed on Lupita, a homegrown talent, who acted with the Phoenix Players and at the Kenya National Theatre before attending drama school at Yale University.

She, for example, featured in the TV series Shuga and produced the documentary In My Genes that highlights the plight of albinos.

Like Kenyan athletes who have always done Kenya proud, Lupita is not only an inspiration to local actors but has also provided good publicity for Kenya.  

A-list designers have been dazzled by the Hollywood newcomer. Lupita’s name is on the lips of the top leaders in the global fashion industry as they scramble for her attention.

And all eyes will be watching to see what Lupita wears on the fabled red carpet.

Lupita’s fashion sense, intelligent acceptance speeches and acting talent have made her a stand-out in the crowd that this year’s Oscars make no sense without the mention of her name. 

Movie critics have tipped the Kenyan who credits Whoopi Goldberg for inspiring her career, to win the category although her biggest competitor comes from American Hustle star Jennifer Lawrence. 

1853 memoir

The movie 12 Years a Slave is based on the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup, a free man from Saratoga Springs, New York, who was kidnapped in Washington DC in 1841, sold to bondage and endured the dehumanising effects of slavery for 12 years working on plantations in the state of Louisiana.

The film is directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley.

The Oscars, known formally as the Academy Awards, have come a long way. On May 16, 1929, the first Academy Awards ceremony took place at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. 

The 86th version will be held at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

But even if Lupita doesn’t win, the accolades, the reviews, the magazine covers she has graced and the nomination itself have already launched her career in the big leagues.