GLAMOUR: You've become a role model for many girls—black girls in particular. Who were your role models, growing up?
Oprah played a big role in my understanding of what it meant to be female and to really step into your own power. I wouldn't even call her a role model; she was literally a reference point. You have the dictionary, you have the Bible, you have Oprah.
GLAMOUR: Do you feel a responsibility to young women out there?
I feel a responsibility to myself and my parents and the people whose love has gotten me this far—people who were in my life before fame. That's where I get my sense of self. It's deadly for anyone to take on that role of a deity; it's not sustainable. I've got tons of flaws. Call my mother—she'll tell you! She keeps it real. Sometimes you don't want to hear the truth; she'll tell it to you out of love.
GLAMOUR: You've received lots of attention for your looks. Did you grow up feeling beautiful?
European standards of beauty are something that plague the entire world—the idea that darker skin is not beautiful, that light skin is the key to success and love. Africa is no exception. When I was in the second grade, one of my teachers said, "Where are you going to find a husband? How are you going to find someone darker than you?" I was mortified. I remember seeing a commercial where a woman goes for an interview and doesn't get the job. Then she puts a cream on her face to lighten her skin, and she gets the job! This is the message: that dark skin is unacceptable. I definitely wasn't hearing this from my immediate family—my mother never said anything to that effect—but the voices from the television are usually much louder than the voices of your parents.
GLAMOUR: You've become so popular that people talk about "the Lupita effect," which includes everything from consumers running out to buy the lip gloss you're using to designers casting more women of color on the runway. How do you react to that?
I giggle. I just heard it for the first time. 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—that she can... Until I saw people who looked like me, doing the things I wanted to, I wasn't so sure it was a possibility. Seeing Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah in The Color Purple, it dawned on me: "Oh—I could be an actress!" We plant the seed of possibility.