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By: Ke’Tara Wells

What better way to kick off 2016 than having Academy Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o grace the cover of Essence’s January issue!

The actress speaks about her career, and the praise from critics and fans around the world. After winning an Academy Award in 2013 for her role in 12 Years a Slave, the actress has definitely been busy, appearing on red carpets and is set to play a high-profile role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Lupita will be playing Maz Kanta, a strong female pirate who has lived over one thousand years with a colorful past.

She spoke of director J.J. Abrams of the Star Wars film, “I was on the way to the beach and all of sudden J.J.’s on the phone. I asked to see the script and they flew someone to Morocco with the script so I could read it. I was immediately interested in the character. I like to get lost in the transformation and I felt like this character would offer me that.”

“When I dreamed of being an actor, I didn’t dream of the praise that would come with it,” she says. “I didn’t dream of the awards. I dreamed of inhabiting different characters. That was the dream.”

Grateful for the success of her craft and role in 12 Years A Slave, Nyong’o then expresses how she struggled adapting to the Hollywood lifestyle of being in front of the cameras.

“After 12 Years a Slave and the quote-unquote meteoric rise, I felt like there was a moment where I was suffering from whiplash,” she explains. “I had talked so much about who I was that I’d forgotten who I was.”

“It’s not a natural environment for a human being to inhabit. You’re one person, and hundreds of flashes are going off in your face and people are yelling your name…and you’re standing there to be judged, so you’re kind of complicit in it. I don’t think anyone ever gets used to it. It becomes familiar and you stop shaking as much and your body gets used to that level of shock. But it’s like being on stage: You never stop getting butterflies. It’s one of the things that reminds you that you care,” she told Essence.

Make sure to check out Essence’s January issue!