Lupita Nyong’o: Ralph Fiennes once said ‘Lupita, give me my space’

lupita cover

Lupita Nyong’o covers the new issue of Rhapsody Magazine. She’s debuting a new hairstyle, and it makes her look SO different. It was driving me crazy, trying to figure out who she reminded me of in this editorial. Then it struck me – she’s giving me Michelle Obama vibes. I’m not saying they’re twinsies or whatever, it’s just that with longer hair, Lupita seems to have a similar facial structure to FLOTUS. Anyway, Lupita spoke to Rhapsody about her first-ever job with a film, which was when she worked as a runner for 2005’s The Constant Gardener, a film starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. Lupita has spoken before about chatting with Ralph, but in this retelling, she says that Ralph told her to hush and stop bothering him.

Lupita Nyong’o might be an in-demand cover girl now, but a decade earlier she was just a ‘production runner’ on the Nairobi set of The Constant Gardener. One of the 32-year-old Oscar winner’s job duties was escorting Ralph Fiennes – the leading man in the 2005 political thriller – to and from his tent to the set.

‘Ralph is a very still man on set,’ the Eclipsed thespian recalled in the December edition of Rhapsody Magazine. ‘It would be very quiet, and that made me uncomfortable. I’d try to make chitchat, asking, “What’s your favorite film? Of all the films you’ve been in, which have you enjoyed the most?” He was so polite, and he responded to me. At one point, though, he just said, “Lupita, give me my space.”‘

It made Nyong’o realise the importance of letting actors have the space to calibrate themselves psychologically for their role.

‘The time before a camera rolls, the moments before my foot steps on a stage, have to be meditative. I have to withdraw from the world as I know it. It’s about listening quietly to my inner motor,’ Lupita explained. The Mexican-born, Kenyan-raised actress also got in trouble talking to Fiennes while he was being directed by Oscar nominee Fernando Meirelles.

‘Suddenly the assistant director was white in the face with rage. He said, “You never interrupt the director!” I didn’t even know who the director was,’ she recalled.

[From The Daily Mail]

This story is being painted as “Ralph Fiennes told off Lupita Nyong’o before she was famous.” But is that really the case? I’m a bit of a Fiennes Apologist, I’ll admit, so I think it’s actually a nice story of a famous actor who politely told a production runner to leave him alone. I mean, Ralph could have shouted at her. He could have gotten her fired. He could have been really mean. Instead, he just quietly told her to give him space. Ralph Fiennes: unfailingly polite, even to lowly production staffers.



Photos courtesy of Rhapsody Magazine.

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84 Responses to “Lupita Nyong’o: Ralph Fiennes once said ‘Lupita, give me my space’”

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  1. Freebunny says:

    Girl, you’re lovely but it’s not a good haircut for you.

    • Catwoman says:

      Agree, Freebunny. She has such stunning facial features that are completely overwhelmed by too much hair. I really like the super short haircut on her. Although she would still be drop dead gorgeous with a mullet.

      • lucy2 says:

        I agree too, I find this hairstyle to be distracting from her gorgeous face. Not everyone can pull off the super short look, but I think it’s her best. It looks like she was having fun with the different style for the photoshoot though.

    • Locke Lamora says:

      I love the haircut. I think she looks better with her hair a bit longer.

      • Esmom says:

        Me, too. Her face, already stunningly beautiful, looks even more beautiful to me.

        I don’t see the FLOTUS resemblance at all.

      • Locke Lamora says:

        Yeah, me neither. She doesn’t look like Michelle at all.

      • RocketMerry says:

        She’s gorgeous with that hairstyle, absolutely gorgeous.
        And I too do not see the Michelle Obama resemblance. Maybe from a different angle…?

      • SnarkySnarkers says:

        She is so much prettier than Michelle. Sorry FLOTUS. Maybe a little like one of their daughters? Not Michelle though.

      • V4Real says:

        I think Lupita and Michelle are equal in looks.

        I remember the chatter on here during and after her Oscar win when posters were saying that they love that she wears her short hair or no weave. I was like give it time she will soon start wearing it longer…and Voilà.

      • cujokay says:

        I think she can be fierce with any hairstyle she chooses. Her beautiful face and structured features allows her freedom that most women (or men) just don’t have.

        She looks fine. I’ve never seen a bad picture of her even when she’s clowning around.

      • Original T.C. says:

        I’m one of those people who was happy to see a Black woman of my complexion also wearing her hairs natural like mine. I don’t understand why some Black women were so offended by the glorification of Black beauty that is not the usual mixed race woman with flowing straight Caucasian locks. And beautiful East Afraican features.

        Most Black women in the world have skin color and hair type closer to Lupita. And she NEVER said anything negative about weaves. She said that she used to wear her hair long and relaxed (looking similar to the eldest Obama girl who has East African ancestry) but she prefers to keep it short and natural right now.

        She even said she has a lot of wigs at home that she plays around with for different looks without causing damage to her natural hair. So where’s the beef??? Yes some Black women straighten their hair or wear weaves due to prejudice at work.

        I fortunately have always had my natural hair and braids accepted in a conservative healthcare industry where I am often the only Black woman around. It’s usually when I get around other Black women that I get pressured to “get a perm” or “longer hair would look better on you”.

      • V4Real says:

        @Original T.C. who said “Where’s the beef”?

        There is no beef. I was just saying people were happy that she always wore her natural hair. Now she’s playing around with weaves. My point was just that she is changing her look which was bound to happen. Must everything be a debate?

      • Original T.C. says:

        Maybe I read your comment wrong but it came across as “you ladies think she’s so special but she’s conforming just as I predicted”. This is in context with your previous comments on Lupita trends expressing displeasure that many of us found her refreshing and attractive.

        It’s common for many people to not like famous people (me included), but I just find it perplexing why some women of color *in particular* hate that the general public likes Lupita’s looks.

        I guess in my mind I assumed WOC would welcome more diversity in the representation of us. Especially in regards to beauty standards/desirability which again has always in Hollywood been reserved for half-Cauasian mixed race women or as light as possible. A standard that we too are guilty of maintaining (see insulting casting categories for ‘Straight outa Comptom’). Just curious.

    • Goats on the Roof says:

      This isn’t a flattering look for her.

    • AlmondJoy says:

      It’s not a haircut, just a fun weave/wig for a photoshoot. She’s not walking around on the street with her hair like this.

      • Santia says:

        Yeah. I guess people can’t tell the difference.

      • Esmom says:

        Yes, that’s what I thought. Definitely a stylized “editorial” look vs real life hair. Very fun though.

      • Josefina says:

        Oh, thank God. I thought it was awful too.

        I think she should stick for going bald. She deffo has the face for it.

      • I Choose Me says:

        Xactly. It’s not my favourite look on her but she’s still so beautiful. Love all the facial expressions she’s making.

    • GlimmerBunny says:

      Yeah, she should have long, straight hair or a short afro. Nothing in between.

    • so i follow model like her on ig all the time and with natural neutral pallette they look ughh…. but with a Fierce matte color on the eye or bright red lip…. they instantly look like art….

      so the overwhelming look of her her is still coming off in some regard as non-fierce…. just like she’s not giving it her all….and it come of as too much with the balance on her features with her hair….

      i swear if she had a black geomtric dress and bold orange red lip and some avant garde pose… these images would scream….GRACE ALEX WEK servage……slayage

  2. Tanguerita says:

    strangely enough in this first picture she reminds me of Emmy Rossum. Is it completely crazy?

    • mimif says:

      Ha, I read this and was like, girl you nuts. But I went back and looked and I can see it too, in the eyes.

  3. Ashley says:

    She already told this story there is a video version of it when she did the Hollywood Reporter roundtable.

  4. Locke Lamora says:

    Wow, so he acted like a decent human being and not an a-hole. It’s sad that we consider that refreshing in Hollywood.

    I think Ralph is a great actor, but ever since his comments on class in Britain and the stupid “you can make it if you just work hard enough” comment I can’t help but find him annoying. And delusional.

    • Bae says:

      Most priviledged people like to think they did everything themselves. I don’t really hold it against him. If I did, I’d have to hold it against pretty much every old Etonian-turned actor or celebrity child, and there’s just too many of them these days.

  5. Kate says:

    Fiennes comes off well I think. It sounds like she was being fairly annoying, and he went along with it as long as he could, before politely and gently letting her know she was bugging him. He wouldn’t have been out of line to ask her to be quiet after the first question.

    • minx says:

      Agree. He was entitled to his peace, and she may be one of those people who want to fill the silence with chatter. Don’t blame him at all.

    • funcakes says:

      I would have had her replaced,but not fired.I hate personal space invaders and people that talk to much.

    • Elisa the I. says:

      +1. People who can’t shut up are so annoying. Enjoy the silence!

  6. tracking says:

    Yeah, I agree with your take. The story is really about her learning the ropes on set. She specifically said he was polite, but finally had to ask her to give him space (to prepare for what was a very intense role). She gets it.

  7. Loopy says:

    So she was shooed away lol, funny thing is we heard how quite standoffish she is, and this is before the Broadway stuff, she has never struck me as warm .

    • V4Real says:

      “Lupita Nyong’o might be an in-demand cover girl now”

      I found that sentence very telling of Lupita’s career. Because if her career was really taking off it might have read “Lupita Nyong’o might be an in-demand actress now.”

      • Pandy says:

        Yeah, weird wording. I think she’s gorgeous – and I like this hair on her! – but I still think she’s overrated as an actress. I know I’m in the minority though.

  8. Louise177 says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this story. Ralph nicely told her to leave him alone and Lupita admitted she was being a little annoying. She understood that some actors need to get into a zone.

  9. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    She’s so pretty. I think working with actors and directors would be terrible. they take themselves so seriously. The director went white with rage that she dared to interrupt him. Ugh.

    • perplexed says:

      It was funny when she said she didn’t know who the director was. I found that kind of hilarious.

      • Wentworth Miller says:

        That was my favorite part of the story. Michelle Obama? Not at all.
        The way that Lupita told the story, that actor didn’t sound as if he was being a dick, it just sounded like he wanted quiet.

    • Mark says:

      How is it bad people not wanting to be interuppted while working?

  10. Shelley says:

    I really do not see the Michelle Obama reference…with that being said, this looks like a fun shoot. It would be interesting to see her with a longer hairpiece that isn’t for an editorial.

    • Santia says:

      I don’t see it all, either.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Me, neither.

    • Antonym says:

      I didn’t see it either, but then I looked at the last photo (the collage of smaller photos) trying to find it and I think I see it. There are a couple of photos in the collage where her expression evokes a resemblance to FLOTUS.

  11. Doc says:

    After watching Vogue’s 73 questions with her, she strikes me as contrived and inauthentic. There was also a story on HONY the other day about a young, unknown, designer who had all clothes sent back to her, by a star, without payment – she never said who it was, but the internet sleuths of the world deducted that it was her.

    • whatthe says:

      And she is not attractive at all.

    • FingerBinger says:

      I like her but I’m over people acting like she’s the best thing since sliced bread.

      • V4Real says:

        I don’t get it either. People calling her ethereal and all. I do not find her that attractive. Sometimes it seems as if people feel that they are forced into believing that she is beautiful. They are not allowed to say they don’t find her attractive because they fear the backlash. They fear they might be accused of saying she’s not beautiful because she is of darker skin. It has nothing to do with her shade of skin, it’s her features. It’s like Gisele and how they pushed her beauty on us. If we continue to say she’s beauty than the world will believe she is. She’s not IMO.

      • perplexed says:

        Beauty is subjective, but she has high cheekbones, is thin (which in Hollywood is really important and pretty much trumps everything else), and wears clothes well in a chameleon-like sort of way, so in that sense I think she fits a certain standard of conventional attractiveness aligned with “symmetry”. I don’t think it’s particularly strange that she’d be considered pretty or beautiful, even if she doesn’t appeal to everyone. Ditto for someone like Gisele, who doesn’t appeal to me, but I get why she’s a model and gets paid for the way she looks.

    • lucy2 says:

      Ooooh, I was wondering who it was (I love HONY).
      I don’t think that was a situation that required payment though, the stylist asked for samples, she sent them, and they sent them back when they opted not to use them. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that’s pretty standard for stars and designers.

      • Doc says:

        You’re probably right that it didn’t, but after snappily forming my opinion about her after the 73 questions, I was kind of hoping it was her, so as to confirm my biased, probably very unfounded judgments. As an actress, I believe she was great in 12 years, but I just can’t bring myself to watch it – will be too distressed.

    • Linn says:

      I think EVERYBODY on Vogue’s 73 questions seems contrived and inauthentic, even the actors I really like and usually consider incredibly witty and charming.

      It’s probably because vogue tries to make it look like it’s all spontaneous even though the actors and actresses clearly had time to think about their answers before the interview.

  12. celine says:

    I can’t stand when random people start trying to make conversation anywhere, especially in the morning. If you try to be polite they still keep going. It’s annoying and rude, imo.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      You should be like my sister, who just stares at them for a minute, then goes back to what she was doing without a word. It’s so strange, because she’s actually a very sweet person, but if strangers talk to her, it really annoys her.

  13. Tiger says:

    Anybody remembers the story of Fiennes and the stewardess and him saying he was the victim?
    The guy is an amazing actor but I totally believe he is a major douche.

    • Chinoiserie says:

      I remember that too.

    • Leah says:

      My impression is that hes a bit of douche with women: I don’t think hes a douche in general, as in unpleasant with coworkers and stuff. Hes supposed to be nice.

  14. Salamandet says:

    She didnt think ahead when she brought this up. Of course it would be twisted. All she is describing is that she was once naive. I have to ask how did she get the job if she really understood so little about the process.

    • perplexed says:

      I can’t tell if the story is being twisted as I haven’t read what other media outlets have said about the story. But reading the quotes, it’s clear she’s saying she’s the one at fault. If other people don’t get it, then I guess they don’t have reading comprehension. That’s their fault, not hers (or Ralph’s).

  15. MrsBPitt says:

    Gosh, she looks so much younger than 32, to me…I would have guessed her age at 24 or 25!

    • CharlotteCharlotte says:

      I could have sworn that she was about 34/35 now, as per her age during the Oscar race. I guess she’s had a few years trimmed. Pretty standard.

  16. Keaton says:

    I wonder if she told it in a self-deprecating way Like “I was such a clueless little chatterbox as a production staffer that Ralph Fiennes had to politely tell me to shut the hell up” lol. I think Ralph Fiennes sounds fine in this situation. He was recently on “Watch What Happens Live” and came across very laid back and approachable.

    Not a fan of the hair on her. She’s still cute but it distracts from her beauty a bit. I agree with the person who says her hair should be super short or long and straight. The cover shot is very striking though. I don’t see Michelle Obama AT ALL.

  17. AlmondJoy says:

    I see nothing wrong with this story.. People have all different techniques and work ethics.

    Lupita and her hair: I always say that my favorite thing about natural hair is that it’s so versatile. We can wear a fro, braids, press it out, put it in a puff, throw a wig on it, bantu knot it twist it out, etc. We like to switch it up and it’s rare that you see us with the same exact hairstyle for a long period of time. I love that she takes risks. You might not always like it but she’s definitely a natural hair icon.

  18. funcakes says:

    I would have had her replaced,but not fired.I hate personal space invaders and people that talk to much.

  19. Leah says:

    Theres nothing wrong with what Fiennes said. I know people like to think actors are divas, but he was working. Imagine if someone is trying to make small talk if you are trying to concentrate, a lot of us are going to be wanting space. It not as if was screaming at him.
    It just sounds like Lupita was clueless about the process of acting at the time.

  20. Original T.C. says:

    She looks gorgeous, those eyes, that lovely profile. Love.

    She told this story before in live interview as a self depreciation example of the “annoying newbie assistant”. She said how great it was to be in the same space as such a brilliant actor. It’s not supposed to be shade.

  21. Marie-France says:

    I agree with Esmom, love The haircut (loved the short hair as well). FLOTUS? Don’t see it. From any angle.

  22. Fanny says:

    I hadn’t heard the second part of the story where the AD yelled at her for talking. It sounds like whoever hired her really should have clued her in about when it’s appropriate to talk. Ralph was nice about it, but clearly not everyone is.

  23. Carey says:

    Lupita gets covers but no meaty roles. It’s so upsetting! Beautiful young woman who is an Oscar winner but she can’t get cast in a film for the obvious reason, which is so depressing.

  24. ldub says:

    She looks like Max from living single.

  25. Nicole says:

    So freaking beautiful.

  26. Jayna says:

    He’s there to do a job, and try to get into character before each scene.

    She admitted she was a chatty Cathy, bothering the actor while working. How was he rude or out of line? In fact, she admitted as much, learning about how actors need to get into that head space to be able to jump into the next scene as the character and needing quiet time, not some assistant peppering him with questions. She said he was polite. How do people turn something said into something entirely different. And she was snapped at by someone on set because she was again talking.

    She was discussing about learning how to behave on set, not complaining about how she was treated.

    I like her hair in that photo.

  27. misande says:

    I don’t really like her( and have hearing stories about her being rude and stand-offish to even her co-stars) I think this is her way of saying Ralph Finnes didn’t treat her nicely because she wasn’t famous. Please, this woman grew up very rich and privileged and wants people to feel sorry for while she got to be a PA on a movie set( Which I am sure she had the connections for anyways)
    She herself would not take pics with other stars because they aren’t “A list” enough for her. Go away.

    • Turtle says:

      I don’t like her either and I think this is a great example of how aloof she is.

      The set isn’t all about you as an individual.

      Yet she doesn’t understand that to the point of her holding onto this minor memory and then unprofessionally recounting it for a publication.

      Fiennes seems like your typical Sag male. He needs a lot of space. She got in his personal space and he set a boundary. This is a dude who was with a woman twenty years his senior for many many years and is known to have mommy issues – he is not playing games with a little junior actress nipping at his ankles.

    • Pondering thoughts says:

      @ misande

      I don’t like her either. She doesn’t quite see how priviledged she is. I doubt she ever had to worry about money. Currently she does a lot of pap walks in stylish clothes which seems a rather desparate strategy to get noticed in the tabloids especially if you are an Oscar-winning actress. Yes, she is pretty. But before I judge her as an actress I want to see more movies with her.
      Do you know about her family’s wealth? I tried to google but there wasn’t anything. Only a few comments that her family were tight with some african government.

    • perplexed says:

      She admitted she was the one at fault. Are people not reading the quotes properly?

  28. Tig says:

    I don’t see anything wrong here either- she pretty much said she was nervously chatting, he’s trying to get ready for his scene and asked for quiet. He didn’t go Christian Bale on her😳! She could wear a bucket on her head and still be stunning!

  29. Cinderella says:

    Her cover shot is fabulous. It’s refreshing to see women of such versatile beauty switch it up now and again.

  30. maggie says:

    She’s cute but I really a dislike that hairstyle. It’s so severe!

  31. go girl says:

    She looks nothing at all like Michelle Obama. But I do see a bit of Erika Alexander in her!

  32. i feel like this site…kinda missteped with the FLOTUS Lupita vibes……

    completely nooooooooooooo there… (2 equally as stunning women in there own right)

    it kinda reminded me in my white collar jobs … non-black people (ok really mainly white people) will say “OMG YOU LOOK LIKE OLIVIA POPE or LUPITA…… and its like nope….. not at all (btw kerry washington and lupita are flawless)

    kinda have to laugh, not all black people (women in this case) look the same (even when we change our hair) lol