The Cinderella of 2014’s award season, Lupita Nyong’o had a fairytale ending on Sunday, March 2, when she was the victor on the red carpet and eventually the Oscars. The 12 Years a Slave star brought the audience to tears as she picked up the award for Best Supporting Actress.
But the whole night was magical for the Kenyan star, 31. Here’s a recap of her Academy Awards preparation and celebration:
It all started around 11:30 a.m. when the Yale School of Drama grad began getting ready with her proud parents, brother Peter Nyongo’o Jr. (who goes by Junior), and best friend Ben by her side. According to Nyong’o’s manicurist, the new Beyonce album was blasting as the breakout star prepared for her red carpet debut.
Singing and dancing to “Drunk in Love,” “XO,” and “Flawless,” the group kept the album on repeat for two hours as she got ready.
Slipping into her stunning sky-blue Prada gown with her Fred Leighton gold and diamond headband, Nyong’o was sure to keep a piece of her family with her at all times. On her pinkie finger, she had a tiny golden frog ring or a “Family totem,” as she called it.
Turning heads on the carpet in her dazzling, bold gown, Nyong’o revealed to Us, “The blue reminds me of my hometown Nairobi. I grew up with nude walls and beige. I hated them, and I couldn’t wait to leave them. And there are some Beyonce aspects [to the dress].”
But more exciting than her fashion (is there such a thing?) were the moments that unfolded once the Oscars telecast actually began. After participating in a few of the ceremony’s skits and bits — like dancing with Pharrell to “Happy” and posing for Ellen DeGeneres’ massive celeb-filled selfie — it was time for the Best Supporting Actress category.
When Nyong’o’s name was called, she vigorously hugged the film’s principle cast, director Steve McQueen, and even Liza Minnelli. After accepting the award from Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, the overjoyed actress walked to the microphone to deliver her speech.
“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is due to so much pain in someone else’s,” Nyong’o began, turning her appreciation to her director. “Thank you so much for putting me in this position. It has been the joy of my life. I want to thank my family for your training. My brother Junior sitting by my side — you are my best friend — and Ben, my other best friend, my chosen family. When I look down at this golden statute, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid.”
Her closing line became an instant Internet meme with fans tweeting the phrase out as her name continued to trend throughout the night.
Nyong’o stepped off stage and into the arms of her proud parents, as an instrumental version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory‘s “Pure Imagination” played in the background. Heading to the press room with her Oscar clutched in her hands, the 12 Years a Slave star decided to release some built-up excitement in an epic photobombing of pal Jared Leto.
The two have become fast friends, and the Dallas Buyers Club star, 42, recently thanked Nyong’o in his acceptance speech at the Independent Spirit Awards, calling her his “future ex-wife.” As she entered the press room, the newly-crowned Oscar winner appeared to be floating on air.
“I’m a little dazed,” she admitted. “I can’t believe this is in my hands. I can’t believe this is real life. I’m really overwhelmed. You know, you hear people wanting you to win and predicting you’ll win and everything, but it’s just not real until you hear Christoph Waltz say your name. But I’m so happy to be holding this golden man. This is my first time here. It’s like I feel like Willy Wonka in the chocolate factory.” Hmm, wonder where she got that idea?
She exited the press room only to get fake attacked by competitor Jennifer Lawrence, who jokingly lunged for her Oscar. But the breakout star wasn’t ready to give up her honor that easily.
And though she’s been dreaming of this day all awards season, Nyong’o admitted to Us that she doesn’t have a spot picked out to display her statue just yet.
“I have no idea yet! I’m still holding it, and I haven’t put it down,” she revealed.
And she didn’t put it down for the rest of the evening, changing into a Miu Miu gown and heading to the Vanity Fair After Party. As she arrived around 1:15 a.m., following a visit to the Governor’s Ball, Nyong’o was greeted by cinema legend Sidney Poitier. The two Oscar winners embraced and posed for pictures together.
Ready to celebrate, Nyong’o danced with her 12 Years costar Sarah Paulson and actress Rosario Dawson. She was spotted around 1:20 a.m. swinging her hips to Lorde‘s “Royals” while clutching her Oscar by her side. And there’s really no better way for a princess to end her evening.
For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!