Lupita Nyong’o

Greg Lotus/ESSENCE

*Lupita Nyong’o is profiled in the January issue of Essence, which marks her first time appearing on the magazine’s cover. The publication honored the actress at its annual Black Women In Hollywood luncheon back in 2014, where she gave an emotional speech about “dark beauty.”

Nyong’o has been in demand since winning an Academy Award in 2013 for her role in “12 Years a Slave,” but she tells the magazine that she wasn’t prepared to deal with the praise that comes with acting.

“When I dreamed of being an actor, I didn’t dream of the praise that would come with it,” she says. “I didn’t dream of the awards. I dreamed of inhabiting different characters. That was the dream.”

“After 12 Years a Slave and the quote-unquote meteoric rise, I felt like there was a moment where I was suffering from whiplash,” she explains. “I had talked so much about who I was that I’d forgotten who I was.”

Lupita Nyong’o

Greg Lotus/ESSENCE

In the article, Lupita also opens up about her struggles with self-doubt.

“…The stage of self-doubt is never eliminated. It’s work. It doesn’t come naturally or easily because I have a golden statue sitting on my shelf,” she said.

Despite her red carpet glamour and vibrant fashion editorials – which have made her an international inspiration – Lupita says she doesn’t always feel comfortable posing for photographers.

“It’s not a natural environment for a human being to inhabit. You’re one person, and hundreds of flashes are going off in your face and people are yelling your name…and you’re standing there to be judged, so you’re kind of complicit in it. I don’t think anyone ever gets used to it. It becomes familiar and you stop shaking as much and your body gets used to that level of shock,” Nyong’o tells Essence. “But it’s like being onstage: You never stop getting butterflies. It’s one of the things that reminds you that you care.”

You can read Nyong’o’s full interview when the issue hits newsstands on Friday, December 4.