Lupita Nyong'o is Glamour's 2014 Woman of the Year

When Lupita Nyong'o won her Oscar for 12 Years a Slave in February, she said she hoped her success would inspire others: “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid," she concluded her acceptance speech. Nyong'o is the daughter of a prominent Kenyan family, born in Mexico and raised in Kenya. She studied at Hampshire College and then Yale before director Steve McQueen asked her to play the role of Patsey in12 Years a Slave. Her varied upbringing seems to have been the perfect precursor for the many roles she's begun to play as a full-fledged star. 

Since that day at the Oscars, Nyong'o has signed on for more films, a deal with Lancome, front rows at fashion week, and now, Glamour's Woman of the Year. In the December cover story, Nyong'o talks about race, the importance of Oprah, and why she's proud to be a part of popular culture. Check out some choice quotes with photos from the cover shoot in the gallery above.

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On race: “European standards of beauty are something that plague the entire world—the idea that darker skin is not beautiful, that light skin is the key to success and love. Africa is no exception. When I was in the second grade, one of my teachers said, ‘Where are you going to find a husband? How are you going to find someone darker than you?’ I was mortified. I remember seeing a commercial where a woman goes for an interview and doesn’t get the job. Then she puts a cream on her face to lighten her skin, and she gets the job! This is the message: that dark skin is unacceptable. I definitely wasn’t hearing this from my immediate family—my mother never said anything to that effect—but the voices from the television are usually much louder than the voices of your parents.” via Glamour Woman of the Year 

Oprah = the Bible: “Oprah played a big role in my understanding of what it meant to be female and to really step into your own power. I wouldn’t even call her a role model; she was literally a reference point. You have the dictionary, you have the Bible, you have Oprah.” via Glamour Woman of the Year 

Being a part of pop culture: “I’ve heard people talk about images in popular culture changing, and that makes me feel great, because it means that the little girl I was, once upon a time, has an image to instill in her that she is beautiful, that she is worthy—that she can… Until I saw people who looked like me, doing the things I wanted to, I wasn’t so sure it was a possibility. Seeing Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah in The Color Purple, it dawned on me: ‘Oh—I could be an actress!’ We plant the seed of possibility.” via Glamour Woman of the Year