Lupita Nyong'o

In 2004 Lupita Nyong'o was working as a runner on a film for Ralph Fiennes. Fast forward a decade and she'd picked up Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her role in 12 Years a Slave.

Life for the dainty Kenyan beauty also became a whirl of limousines, Louboutins and face time with the biggest names in business.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Oprah…. They've all been charmed by her. So it's hard to imagine that her pinch-yourself moment very nearly didn't happen.

Growing up as the daughter of a well-to-do Nairobi politician, she shied away from admitting that acting was her passion.

Lupita was born on March 1, 1893 in Mexico City where her father spent time teaching political science. When she was a year old her family moved back to Kenya.

Her parents sent her back to Mexico, aged 16 to study Spanish, which speaks fluently along with English, Swahili and the language of her tribe, Luo.

She then went to study film at Hampshire College in the US, with a view to working in production or directing.

The encounter with Ralph on the Constant Gardner was a pivotal moment.

"He asked me what I wanted to do with my life," she said "and so I very shyly said I wanted to be an actor too, and he sighed deeply and said, 'Lupita, only act if you can’t breathe without it.'"

She told the Telegraph that she enrolled in Yale Drama School "because I thought that when I'm 60 and looking back on my life, if acting hadn't been a part of it, I would hate myself". From there Lupita got the call for the part of a slave girl on a cotton plantation.

Her natural beauty and joie de vivre have provided a breath of fresh air in Tinseltown comparable to when Jennifer Lawrence arrived on the scene a few years ago.

Everyone who meets her remark on these qualities. Her make up artist for the Golden Globes talked about listening to Beyonce's new album during their session and having a blast.

"That was Lupita's request and we were all having fun," says Nick Barose. "That's the thing about her - I always have to question if I'm actually working around her because it's always so fun."

Talking about his decision to cast Lupita, 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen says: "Lupita just shone through. She has this vulnerability to her, but she is also a tremendous force."
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