The Oscar winner explained that she doesn't feel a responsibility to speak for women of color — because responsibility is not a big enough word.
"I don't feel like the responsibility I feel comes from any place other than my gut. I feel a responsibility to speak about certain things because I wish someone had spoken about them for me," the Kenya native explained. "I know I'm in a unique position where lots of people all over the world are seeing me and connecting with me, and perhaps because of my demographic and how limited representation is for my demographic, I do feel not a responsibility but an impetus to speak. It's an impetus."
That impetus, she explained, can be emotionally draining because she pours everything she has into it.
"I wish that I took it more lightly sometimes, because it costs a lot," Nyong'o said. "Which is why I can't do those speeches every weekend, because it costs a lot to share from such a deep place, if you will. But I don't know how to speak from any other place. Kenyans are very ceremonial. There is a formality that comes with gatherings and comes from our colonial conditioning. Oratory is something that's really important to Kenyans, the way one speaks to the masses, it's an art almost."
Nyong'o is featured on two separate covers, one for the newsstand and one for subscribers.
Image: Alexi Lubomirski/courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar
Read the complete interview with Nyong'o in the May issue of Harper's Bazaar UK, on sale now. It's also available in the digital edition on the Apple Newsstand.
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