It's a very good year to be Lupita Nyong'o, though we have to assume she's a bit more excited about her Oscar for 12 Years a Slave than she is about this latest honor: She's been named People's Most Beautiful for 2014. Still, the gracious 31-year-old says she "never dreamed" she'd win the title, and calls it "exciting" and "a major, major compliment." But she's most happy "for all the girls who would see me on [the cover] and feel a little more seen," she says.
She recalls that growing up, after having been born in Mexico and raised in Kenya, she thought "light skin and long, flowing, straight hair" was what it meant to be beautiful, because that's what she saw on TV. "Subconsciously you start to appreciate those things more than what you possess," she says. Nowadays, she likes it most when people call her "beautiful with not one drop of makeup on. And also before I comb my hair or put on a pretty dress. Happiness," she adds, "is the most important thing." (Did you know Nyong'o is also an Ivy Leaguer?)