Lupita Nyong'o: The Front Runner

Her harrowing turn in 12 Years a Slave brings ­the Kenya-born actress accolades she couldn't prepare for

Lupita Nyong'o doesn't appear onscreen until nearly an hour into 12 Years a Slave. And when she does--as Patsey, a slave whose curse it is to be both industrious and beautiful, desired by the man who claims to own her and jealously hated by his wife--she is indistinguishable, at first, from a long line of black men and women waiting in fear while the cotton they have picked for hours in the brutal sun is weighed by white men with ungodly power over their lives.

It takes barely a minute, though, for Nyong'o to shape Patsey into a full person. First...

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