The Oscar-winning actress wrote Sulwe to encourage children to love the skin color they were born with.

By Nick Romano
February 18, 2021 at 09:00 AM EST
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Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o is bringing Sulwe, the children's picture book she published in 2019, to the screen.

Nyong'o will produce an animated musical based on the book for Netflix, the streaming studio announced on Thursday.

Written by Nyong'o and illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Sulwe tells of a 5-year-old Kenyan girl of the same name who struggles to embrace her darker skin when everyone at school and at home has lighter skin. A magical journey through the night sky changes everything. After all, "sulwe" in Luo, Nyong'o's native language, means "star."

"Sulwe is a mirror for dark-skinned children to see themselves, a window for those who may not be familiar with colorism, to have understanding and empathy, and an invitation for all who feel different and unseen to recognize their innate beauty and value," Nyong'o said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the Netflix film.

She continued, "I am thrilled that the book is being adapted into an animated musical that we hope inspires children all around the world to celebrate their uniqueness."

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers originally released Sulwe, which Nyong'o read in full for Netflix's Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices series in October.

The Black Panther and Us actress previously spoke about her own struggles to see her darker skin tone as beautiful, notably in a 2014 speech during the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, when she read aloud a letter she received from a fan.

"I remember a time when I too felt un-beautiful," she said. "I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I was the day before."

"And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey," she mentioned later on. "That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade to that beauty."

Sulwe, Nyong'o said when her book was first announced, was written to "encourage children (and everyone really!) to love the skin they are in and see the beauty that radiates from within."

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