Before addressing a crowd of more than 10,000 on Thursday, Nyong'o admitted to being nervous via Instagram, but said, "I brought back-up" – in the form of her mom.
Which made her speech all the more poignant. Her words proved moving, relatable and inspirational – all the hallmarks of what we've come to expect from the insanely poised and talented actress.
Nyong'o spoke about growing up in Nairobi, Kenya where acting wasn't considered a viable career path. She attempted to repress her dream by exploring other careers, until pursuing film studies at Hampshire College. It wasn't enough, though.
"What I wanted more than anything was to make believe for a living," admitted Nyong'o. "When I watched 'The Color Purple' and watched Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg, a seed was planted in my heart to becoming an actor, but I dared not water it in public."
This is when Nyong'o broke down in front of the audience. “I wept just as I am now, because it was so hard to admit that I wanted to be something so improbable," she explained. That courageous declaration led her to the Yale School of Drama, her first role in "12 Years a Slave," a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and an upcoming role in "Star Wars: Episode VII."
Nyong'o also offered encouragement to those on the path to achieving their dreams. “Without the possibility of being bad, you cannot be extraordinary," she said. “Step and repeat,” she explained. “It doesn’t get comfortable, but it does get familiar.”
"We continue to fight for equality, for justice, for freedom, for compassion and we achieve the most when we are awakened and responsive to the desires of our individual hearts," Nyong'o said. "It is then we can be part of a whole and share our tools to fulfill the bigger picture of a better tomorrow."