Regal and glowing, Lupita Nyong’o is simply stunning on the cover of the January issue of ESSENCE. The Kenyan beauty (and former Black Women In Hollywood honoree) has become a household name since winning an Oscar for her turn in 12 Years a Slave. She’s been busy as can be (Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres this month), but one can hardly tell considering how radiant she remains.

Yet she is beating the boards daily performing in playwright and The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, currently off-Broaday and heading to the Great White Way in February. The play is set during the Liberian civil war and looks at how the lives of five women are severely impacted by the ordeal. Nyong’o’s role as one of the captives subjected to regular trauma is “physically and emotionally exhausting,” but it was one she felt she had to inhabit.

“I didn’t grow up seeing African women onstage very often, much less African women in African stories. I was in love with the world Danai created,” she says.

And that connection to her craft was one Nyong’o had to return to after all the Hollywood whirlwind.

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

Watch Lupita’s moving speech at the 2014 Black Women in Hollywood luncheon below, and pick up the January issue of Essence on stands Dec. 4 to find out more about how the star is handling her newfound fame.