Lupita Nyong’o: ‘Racism Is Not Dead’

Actress Lupita Nyong'o arrives at the 25th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 4, 2014 in Palm Springs, California. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The Internet went nuts when it learned that European posters for 12 Years a Slave, a film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as the titular slave, prominently featured the movie's white supporting actors instead of its leading man. And rightfully so. That was insane. When we asked 12 Years star Lupita Nyong'o about the dust-up this week, at a luncheon hosted by Peggy Siegal, she was reluctant to discuss it. "I don't know the details. All I know is [the posters] existed, and the foreign distributors apologized," she said. "The thing about these things is they cloud what's important. So if we allow that to happen, then we lose track of the significance of this story … I think it's just a question of asking yourself, 'Why am I saying this? Why is a poster more significant than 12 Years A Slave?'" That said, she added later, "Racism is not dead. It's not. And that's why this film is so important. To understand American society today, it starts with these kinds of stories, and the fact that they haven't been dealt with yet. There's work to be done. There are apologies that need to be sought and apologies that need to be offered. And that's on a political level and a social level and an individual level and a communal level." If you didn't already want to hear this smart, poised woman make a speech on Oscar night … don't you now?