Actress Lupita Nyong’o teams up with Netflix to adapt her children’s book ‘Sulwe’

Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o announced that she will be adapting, her children’s picture book, Sulwe, (published in 2019), into an animation film for Netflix. The Black Panther fame actress will also produce the animated musical based on the book, the streaming colossal announced lately.

Written by Nyong’o and illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Sulwe tells the tale of a five-year-old Kenyan girl of the same name who struggles to embrace her darker skin when everyone at school and 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’ – follows the synopsis.

Commenting on the project, Nyong’o said in a statement accompanying the announcement of Netflix, “Sulwe is a mirror for dark-skinned children to see themselves, a window for those who may not be familiar with colourism, to have understanding and empathy, and an invitation for all who feel different and unseen to recognise their innate beauty and value. 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 out entirely for Netflix’s Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices series in October last year.

The actress of colour previously spoke about her own struggles to eventually see her darker skin tone as beautiful, 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 unbeautiful. 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,” she said at the event.

Sulwe, for Nyong’o, was an epiphanic journey, a purgation, and she added that her book is meant to “encourage children (and everyone ) to love the skin they are in and see the beauty that radiates from within. 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.”

The release date and other details for Sulwe adaptation are yet to be revealed.


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Ashwathi Anoopkumar