Lupita Nyong’o: ‘I haven’t figured out how to be a celebrity’

Story highlights

Lupita Nyong'o is named one of Glamour's Women of the Year

The actress won an Oscar for "12 Years a Slave"

She's still getting used to celebrity

She wants to be a role model for women

CNN  — 

Lupita Nyong’o is one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year.

That’s no surprise to most people: The actress won an Oscar for “12 Years a Slave” this year and has been popping up on “best dressed” and “most beautiful” lists ever since.

Lupita: A Cinderella for everybody

Nevertheless, she tells the magazine that the attention she’s received has been overwhelming.

“Right now I’m still adjusting. I guess I feel catapulted into a different place; I have a little whiplash,” she said. “I did have a dream to be an actress, but I didn’t think about being famous. And I haven’t yet figured out how to be a celebrity; that’s something I’m learning, and I wish there were a course on how to handle it.”

She couldn’t even imagine what winning the Oscar would be like, she observed.

“I don’t think I will ever be able to really articulate how bizarre it was to hear my name at the Academy Awards. I’d watched in my pajamas the year before!” she said. “I felt numb – dazed and confused. I remember feeling light – weightless. More like limbo than cloud nine.”

The Oscar has helped launch her career into the stratosphere. Nyong’o has big things ahead, including next year’s “Star Wars” movie.

But the actress, who was born in Mexico of Kenyan parents, mentions that it wasn’t always so. For her, Oprah Winfrey wasn’t just a role model but a “reference point,” and seeing Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg in “The Color Purple” was key to her belief that she could become successful.

She hopes she can have the same effect on people who see her.

“I’ve heard people talk about images in popular culture changing, and that makes me feel great, because it means that the little girl I was, once upon a time, has an image to instill in her that she is beautiful, that she is worthy,” she said. “Until I saw people who looked like me, doing the things I wanted to, I wasn’t so sure it was a possibility.”

The December issue of Glamour hits newsstands November 11.