Lupita Nyong’o accepts the award for best actress in a supporting role for "12 Years a Slave" during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Los Angeles.  (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

Lupita Nyong’o and the color barrier

ON SUNDAY night, as Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o climbed the stairs to accept her Academy Award, her dazzling ebony skin contrasted her ice blue Prada gown, and I was loath to imagine her as the brutalized Patsey in the Oscar-winning film, “12 Years a Slave.”

Yet there she was, this woman with skin like mine, the center of attention, an icon of beauty, an Oscar winner who has taken Hollywood by storm. But before her years at Yale, and before her role as a slave, Nyong’o had to overcome slavery of another kind — the slavery that existed in her mind.

As a child, Nyong’o, the daughter of a Kenyan senator, believed that there was something ugly about her chocolate-colored skin. She was teased about her complexion, and later recalled in interviews that she would go to bed asking God for lighter skin, only to awaken to the disappointment of unanswered prayers.

I lived the same reality as a child.

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(Featured Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

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