Director Steve McQueen
The number of directors in Hollywood that are people of color is rather low. The number of award winning people of color? Even lower. But Steve McQueen has carved out a place for himself as a talented writer and director. McQueen, not to be confused with the actor of the same name, is responsible for three award winning feature films. One of those films, 12 Years A Slave, even earned McQueen a best picture award at the Oscars.
There is no doubt that McQueen is an extraordinary man. In 2014, he was named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people. The article was written by one of the stars of 12 Years A Slave, Lupita Nyong’o. In the article, Nyong’o calls McQueen a “visionary” and a “passionate storyteller.”McQueen is known for having good relationships with his actors. McQueen and Michael Fassbender have had a long standing partnership. Fassbender has appeared in all three of McQueen’s feature films. Of McQueen Fassbender says, “The fact of the matter is, [he] changed my life […] Steve and I have a really good understanding. We are on the same page, we see things in the same light and we want to take risks and stretch boundaries.”
Steve McQueen and the cast of 12 Years A Slave. Pictured from left to right: Lupita Nyong’o, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve McQueen, Sarah Paulson, & Michael Fassbender.
All of this from a man who says he was put into a class for “manual labour, more plumbers and builders, stuff like that.” At thirteen years old, McQueen attended a school that was institutionally racist, something he speaks about more comprehensively in this interview with The Guardian. “School was scary for me because no one cared, and I wasn’t good at it because no one cared. At 13 years old, you are marked, you are dead, that’s your future.” It’s an inspiring story for any one who feels hopeless or is in the same situation.
There are very few people who haven’t heard of Lupita Nyong’o by now. She seems to have taken the film industry by storm. As an incredibly articulate, talented, Yale alum, it’s hard to ignore Nyong’o. As a prominent woman of Kenyan descent, she serves as a great role model for many women who aren’t used to seeing representations of themselves in popular media. The media has lauded her impeccable sense of style and her brilliant performance in 12 Years a Slave.
The film catalogues the story of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in the pre-Civil War United States. Northup is kidnapped and sold into slavery where he meets Patsey, who is played by Nyong’o. Patsey is a slave who has accrued the unwanted affection of her owner, Edwin Epps (played by Michael Fassbender). Nyong’o plays the character of Patsey wonderfully, with so much raw emotion at the right times. She is able to capture the complexities of Patsey with ease. From soft innocence to raging desperation, Nyong’o does it all.
Vanity Fair Image of Nyong’o as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave
After winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 12 Years a Slave, it seems that the sky is the limit for Nyong’o. Many opportunities should arise for an actress like her, but that is not always the case. After winning an Oscar for Best Actress in 2001, Halle Berry hasn’t done much award winning work. Other Oscar winners like Cuba Gooding Jr., Timothy Hutton and Catherine Zeta-Jones have yet to return to the Oscars after their first win. Hopefully this “Oscar curse” will not befall Nyong’o.
Lupita Nyong’o can be found on Twitter and Instagram.