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EXCLUSIVE: Alek Wek on Getting Love From Lupita Nyong'o

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#12: Balance Tones

Three days before she won the Academy Award for her stunning performance in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong'o left the audience at ESSENCE's Black Women in Hollywood luncheon teary-eyed and speechless as she shared her journey to self-acceptance as a dark-skinned woman. "When I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence," Nyong'o recalled. "My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no consolation: She’s my mother, of course she’s supposed to think I am beautiful. And then Alek Wek came on the international scene."

PHOTOS: ESSENCE 2014 Black Women in Hollywood Event Recap

In her speech, Nyong'o reminisced about the importance of seeing the rise of supermodel Wek, a woman with skin hued like hers. "When I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny," Nyong'o said.

ESSENCE reached Wek to ask how it felt to be part of Nyong'o's own success story. Here, exclusively, is Alek Wek's reaction in her own words:

PHOTOS: Celebs Congratulate Lupita on Her Oscar Win

I was amazed and very humbled by Lupita's words, and I am so proud and happy that her talent was deservedly recognised with her Oscar award.

When I was growing up, my mother taught me and my sisters to celebrate each other -- there was no room in our household for negativity. She taught us to embrace each other and this was empowering for us. She also taught us the value of celebrating our differences.

PHOTOS: Fun Pictures from ESSENCE's Black Women in Hollywood Photobooth

When I first started modeling I realised I was very different from many of my colleagues, but I welcomed the opportunities my career in fashion offered me, and the support from many inspiring individuals in the fashion industry. And because of this I have always strived to use the platform I have in fashion, to champion the ideals of what is beautiful.

PHOTOS: What You Said: What Lupita Nyong'o's Oscar Win Means to Me

For me it always goes back to what my mother taught me and my sisters. That all women are beautiful and we should embrace each other. True beauty is born through our actions and aspirations and in the kindness we offer to others. Beauty should not be culturally relevant, it should be universal.

PHOTO GALLERY: Red Carpet Recap: 2014 Academy Awards

  • Lupita Nyong'o accepts the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role award for 12 Years a Slave onstage during the Oscars in Hollywood, California.
  • Director Steve McQueen, winner of Best Motion Picture for Twelve Years A Slave poses in the press room during the 86th Academy Awards on March 2nd, 2014 in Hollywood, California.
  • Viola Davis attends the 86th Annual Academy Awards held at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, California.
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