Two of Africa’s greatest exports – South African comedian Trevor Noah and Mexican-Kenyan Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o – sat down in New York for an interview with journalist Philip Galanes.
As the actress wrote on Facebook: “‘So two Africans walk into a restaurant in Manhattan and meet a journalist…’ – the start of a very good joke or a very good conversation with Trevor Noah for The New York Times.”
Fortunately it’s the latter, with readers welcoming the dialogue for the insight these two stars, who are both 32 and grew up in Africa, are able to share.
One facebook user wrote: “Two of the most insightful people who happen to work in entertainment. Their insight often crystallised in projects they choose to participate in. Good read. Hello Africa!”
A South African reader wrote: “I was definitely delighted to read this… Lupita Nyong’o is so intelligent, she is going going to make more waves in the acting industry. Better yet, move mountains. Trevor Noah, man, it’s good to have a fellow South African inspire many and change the perspective of the ignorant… #greatestrolemodels #ilooktoyou”
During the interview the two stars discuss #OscarsSoWhite (and the limitations of discussions like that), being “allowed to be angry”, what happens when ugly ducklings – Lupita was teased as a girl and called ‘whack mamba’ – grow up to be swans, and the challenges in encouraging diversity because of what Lupita calls “gatekeepers”. Noah recalls, for instance, how job adverts to attract a more diverse set of writers to the The Daily Show team hit a ‘roadblock’ because they were sent to agents and managers which most young black, Hispanic and female comedians do not have.
“I love Trevor’s account of what happened when he said he wanted a more diverse writing staff! That is EXACTLY what happens in so many fields and situations! READ THIS.” wrote one Facebook user.
Trevor, who says that comedy is his therapy, reveals how instead of anger, “you can get so much further with diplomacy and empathy. You have to feel for the other person, even if you think they’re completely wrong. And they think the same about you.”
Lupita says although she was told she was too dark for TV she came to accept herself thanks to people like Oprah Winfrey telling model Alek Wek how beautiful she was. “It was very powerful,” says Lupita. “Something in my subconscious shifted. That’s why this conversation is so important — because it burns possibility into people’s minds.”
Read the full conversation here.