MediaPunch / REX / Shutterstock / Rex USA 1 / 50
MediaPunch / REX / Shutterstock / Rex USA 1 / 50

Lupita Nyong'o was born in Mexico but raised in Kenya where her father served in the Kenyan Senate and she was a brief TV star on Shuga, a safe sex-promoting MTV/UNICEF series about Nairobi’s youth and their sexual relationships. While on summer break from Massachusetts’ Hampshire College, she worked as a production runner on the Ralph Fiennes’ film The Constant Gardener in Nairobi. His advice encouraged her to eventually enroll in the Yale School of Drama and three weeks before graduating in May 2012 she landed her first U.S. film role as the abused Patsey in 12 Years A Slave, which would earn her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and a SAG Award. She had previously directed and produced a 2009 documentary about Kenyans living with albinism called In My Genes. Now a fashion icon and in-demand actress, Nyong’o followed up Slave with the Liam Neeson action vehicle Non-Stop and will appear in the next Star Wars installment. Despite rumors to the contrary and a publically flirty façade, her fellow supporting actor winner Jared Leto is not more than a good friend.