In Which I Prove That Lupita Nyong’o Is Better Than Jennifer Lawrence

Lupita Nyong'o attending the Critics Choice Awards wearing a white dress January 2014

Lupita is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress based on her incredible work in 12 Years A SlaveLupita reminds me of the version of Jennifer that we met after Winter’s Bone, who at this point has very little in common with the Jennifer from American Hustle. At least in my opinion.

That Jennifer was humble, still grateful and surprised to be garnering attention from the media, while this current version seems almost to expect it. She get thrown into a movie any time they want to appeal to a younger audience, and I can’t imagine how easy it would be to become accustomed to that sensation without acknowledging the true enormity of how lucky you are. I understand that J-Law is talented, but she does not need every movie role. C’mon. In fact, it becomes distracting when she’s miscast as women who are intended to be much older, as she was in American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer has gotten a reputation in the media now of succeeding without almost any effort at all. She dislikes rehearsal, and would rather dash off a natural, impulsive read for a role than spend time researching and developing it. She never looks like she’s working hard at anything — from fashion, to acting, to interviews — and that’s great, to a point. It’s a rare gift, but when we reward someone too heavily for a gift, it can dull its edge and discourage them from working harder to turn that gift into a skill. Things seem to come easily to her, which doesn’t encourage much forward momentum.

Which is a big part of why watching Lupita is such a relief for me. Here is someone who who is devoted to her craft and doesn’t mind people seeing it. She didn’t stumble into an audition, she traveled to the United States to train at Yale. She’s here for a reason, and that reason is her life’s work, not a hobby that she happens to be preternaturally skilled at. (For the record, I do think that Jennifer Lawrence has worked hard on movie roles, I jsut think we reward her for acting like she doesn’t.)

Lupita doesn’t pretend she isn’t prepared, or didn’t expect this. She prepares for award shows in case she should be honored, as she was at last night’s Critics’ Choice Awards. She knows how deserving she is, and how hard she works, and that comes through in the speech. She makes no effort to hide how thrilled and excited she is, but she remembers to thank everyone, because this was no accident. She wanted this moment and prepared for this moment and she earned this moment, and there’s no shame in that.

She’s a professional, trained actor. That’s her job. It’s not her job to be likable, which is an impulse I’m feeling more and more from Jennifer, to an overwhelming degree. I’m almost sure that it’s just a matter of overexposure, and not a calculated move on Jennifer’s part, but that doesn’t make it feel any less grating.

To me, that is. I’m well aware that this isn’t a popular opinion, that most people are still just as in love with Jenn as they always were. I’m the one who’s changing, and I know that, because I used to love that she was this way! I found it refreshing that in the midst of all the feigned perfection of Hollywood, there was someone willing to be entirely herself, bumbling her way through things she didn’t bother to pretend to care about, and becoming all the more likable for her lack of pretension.

I thought I’d always want that, but I changed, and I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me, but I had to say something, y’know? I’m just so ready for someone from that elusive middle ground between Jennifer and Anne, and I think I’ve finally found it in Lupita. She’s real enough to admit that she works hard, and that this isn’t something easy that anyone can do, but also professional enough to acknowledge that she’s gotten really effing good at it. She’s not just here for the food.

And for me, right now, today — Lupita is that person. The rising star, the up-and-comer, the breath of fresh air. She might not always be (because I’m kind of a jackass and can apparently get tired of everything), but in this moment, I couldn’t be more thrilled with her success and the way she’s handling it.

I think I’ve proven in this article that I can’t always be my best self, Lupita. But thank you for being yours.

(Photo: Brian To / WENN.com)

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    • Lucy

      You didn’t prove much other than your opinion, making the title a bit misleading. I’m definitely not of the opinion that we can’t criticize women without being anti-feminist, but it helps if they’ve done something to criticize. I agree with you about the cake thing, but that’s already been covered in its own article here. A more interesting story would be why we build up actresses so much and then turn on them (I may be wrong, but I don’t really think this happens with men), or why we get sick of actors we previously loved, or why Lupita is awesome and deserves the Oscar more than the other nominees (which I agree she does). As it is, it just reads as, “I used to like his actress but now I’m sick of her and I prefer his one,” which makas for a boring article. That said, I’ve read and enjoyed many of your previous articles, and look forward to the next.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Thank you for your feedback Lucy, I really appreciate it.
        As far as the title, it was the best way I could think of to get my point across in a limited amount of characters that also sounded enjoyable (or at least opinion-inducing) to read.

    • ChopChick

      So hold on–Anne Hathaway tries too hard but this new chick tries hard and we’re all for it. Talk about some made up sh*t.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        I’m saying I was probably (definitely) a little hard on Anne Hathaway. I just didn’t like that she pretended to be surprised by the awards she won, when all anyone was saying all year is that she was a shoe-in.

    • dddddddeded

      This is just a cruel piece of writing. You can defend it as much as you want, but it was unnecessary and truly pitiful in its cattiness.

      When it comes down to it, you just wrote an entire article tearing down a woman who is talented and successful in an industry that rarely lets women into the big leagues. I just felt really let down by this article, as well, because I have read this blog daily for years and I now feel uncomfortable with the thought of ever returning.

      I hope next time you sit down to write an article critiquing an actresses’ body of work, you focus on something other than her personality and the fact that you found a new toy to play with. Nice work all around.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Why can’t I focus on personality and what’s presented to the media? In today’s world, it’s given just as much importance as the movie roles an actor selects, don’t you think?

    • Farrah

      How totally sad for this writer that she cannot like more than one actress at once. I wonder how often she pits actors against each other for her momentary affections.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        I can (and do) like many actresses at once. I’d just like the opportunity to keep liking Jennifer Lawrence without being bombarded by her presence from every corner.

      • Liderc

        I know this is two months old and I have Jlaw fatigue myself, but you are the reason that we’re bombarded by her presence from every corner. The media is what causes us to love someone when they come up and then hate them when they’re stuck on every website front page and magazine cover.

        If people like you didn’t talk about these people so much we wouldn’t be so sick of them a year later.

    • Kathy

      I’d like to add my 2 cents about Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle, and maybe this isn’t the place. But I thought she played the Jewish American Princess perfectly, and her New York accent was really good. I don’t think she “threw it together” but I got the impression that she had some good coaching. Or maybe she is a natural, I don’t know. Her mannerisms and JAP antics were flawless, and she really added something to the picture. Amy Adams was also quite good, and the entire ensemble cast of American Hustle really sparkled. If it had been all Christian Bale and everyone else phoning it in, well obviously the picture wouldn’t have been as good. I’m not saying that J-Law deserves an Oscar, but she definitely deserves the nomination. Thank you – rant mode off.

    • Lawrence Wilson

      I’m sorry… but I think Jennifer has the same incredible personality as she did a year ago and Alexis, I do not know you but your opinion really comes off as nothing more than jealousy.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Sorry to hear that!

    • Gross

      My God, this was written by a complete moron. Never coming back to this website again.

    • Nona

      Jennifer Lawrence is awful and I’m glad some people are finally seeing that. But she never works at her roles, she’s said it many times and it’s evidenced in her characters. They’re all exactly the same. She’s a hack and a phony and I’m tired of people saying she’s oh so talented and refreshing.

      • Emmy

        Not expecting a response, but I cannot ignore this blatantly false comment. Jennifer’s is exceptional. I’m a Film student with a theatrical background. Jennifer has IT. I first watched her in Silver Linings Playbook. The depth she brings to her characters is extraordinary. She makes them human – vulnerability, anger, sadness, humor, charm, jealousy, likability… She can portray a dozen emotions with one gaze. She is no hack and I think the media’s stupidity just undermines her talent. I was so impressed that I went back to watch Winter’s Bone and I’ve seen American Hustle. She is a dominant acting force. This idiot of an author is blinded by typical cattiness, the need having to put down one female while praising another. I’m so sick of it. I like Lupita, I really do. She seems like a sweet person. She will need to prove herself to show she’s in it for the long haul. I have no harsh words for her, I wish her the best! Jennifer is my favorite actress right now based on sheer talent. I don’t count personality. I happen to love Anne Hathaway. I was confused by the “hate”. This is something made up with the media and they try to act like they speak for all of us.

    • Agnetta

      Oh dear… you would be better off without this post! Bad, bad, baaad choice.

    • Spelly

      Spell check

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Do you have a particular concern you’d like to air, or just those two words?

    • PersonWithAnOpinion

      fuck crushable and fuck the internet

    • lizziegoneastray

      I realize this is an opinion piece, but I’m getting really tired of this idea that there’s some kind of “happy medium” for every trait a woman could possibly possess — from humility to sexuality to body type — and which any woman might, at any time, be penalized for failing to live up to. This “happy medium” is constantly moving and completely subjective, and as you mentioned (but failed to condemn) a woman might be lauded for her perfection one day and shot down the next for everything she is and does.

      JLaw is who she is. If you like her, great! But if you don’t, is it really necessary to do this kind of thing?

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        As an entertainment blogger with constantly changing opinions — yes, it is really necessary to do this kind of thing. It’s my job.

    • Cait

      Honestly I’m so over the whole “woman is better than this woman” argument. No one person is better than another.

      This reminds me of all the hate Anne Hathaway received at the Oscars last year. People hated her because she worked so hard and was extremely prepared for everything, whereas Jennifer was seen as a “breath of fresh air” and “just like a regular person”. Now people are sick of her and see her behavior as contrived or an act. The media is so fickle it’s ridiculous.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        It’s almost like you quoted my article word for word.

      • Cait

        I’m just saying that hopefully a year from now there won’t be an article complaining that you’re over Lupita because she tries so hard and is over prepared a la Anne Hathaway 2013.
        Liking one actress shouldn’t detract from your admiration of another. They aren’t mutually exclusive. Here’s a solution: you’re sick of seeing Jennifer Lawrence, or any other celebrity, stop writing about them.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        “Here’s a solution: you’re sick of seeing Jennifer Lawrence, or any other celebrity, stop writing about them.”

        You seem to have a basic misunderstanding of my job.

      • Cait

        I figured that would be the only part of my comment you would respond to.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Congratulations! You predicted the future! If you’d like to see my responses to any of your other concerns, feel free to look through the comment section.

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    • Concerned parent

      You’re just upset that JLaw is worth $30mil and you’re worth $30K, and no one seems to laugh at your jokes the way they do hers

    • Maddison

      I don’t understand why you are you even comparing these women. The link between them is, what, they’ve won Oscars? You say that you should be allowed to “compare their bodies of work” but your article speaks nothing of their award-winning performances. In fact the only mention of their profession is your claim that Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t seem to work as hard as Lupita to prepare for her roles, based solely on your opinion.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Correct, very good, this piece is based solely on my opinion. Because I wrote it.