In fact, the Oscar-winning Kenya native said in a recent interview that acting has kept her away from her real passion, which lies in her home country: fighting for elephant conservation.
"I knew when I got the role in 12 Years a Slave that it was going to be a monumental film," she said about the movie that skyrocketed her to fame last year. "I did not know it was going to be as large… I just didn't have any frame of reference for what it ended up becoming. But I'm very honored to have been able to come out into the work with such an important film."
Nyong'o is back in Kenya now, spearheading an effort to curtail record poaching of African elephants for their ivory. It's the first time since her Oscar win that she's returned to the country where she spent her childhood and her first time visiting an elephant orphanage, she said Tuesday.
"It was my first time to really have an intimate experience with elephants. What struck me was how big they are, how quiet they are," she said. "It was really a breathtaking experience."
In an interview with BBC News, Nyong'o explained that she's loved elephants since she was a young girl.
"It's extremely important," she said of efforts to save the animals. "Elephants are one of [Kenya's] big five — I mean, we have their image on our money. So this is a great source of pride to Kenyans. And the fact that this is global heritage but it is in our care, I think it's really important for us, for the sake of the rest of the world, to ensure that elephants continue to walk this earth."
She continued, "It was very heartbreaking to think about the fact that they were being killed for nothing more than their tusks. I mean, that's a very small part of the elephant to lose the entire animal for."
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