CULTURE

Is Jay-Z’s Mysterious 4:44 Actually the Return of Lupita Nyong’o We’ve All Been Waiting For?

The upcoming film’s new teaser may only last 30 seconds, but it offers a glimpse at Nyong’o we’ve barely seen in the last few years, thanks to her recent preference in CGI and voice roles.


Back in 2012, when it came time for Steve McQueen to cast the role of Patsey, a young slave who’s the unfortunate obsession of a torturous cotton plantation master in his film 12 Years a Slave, the acclaimed director saw over 1,000 actresses before he opted for one who had never before acted in a feature film. That actress was, of course, Lupita Nyong’o, who then hadn’t even yet graduated Yale School of Drama; fast forward a year or so later, though, and she was an Academy Award-winning industry favorite with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress under her belt.

Predictably, of course, the world has been obsessed with her name ever since—to the point that when Nyong’o ran into Beyoncé at the Met Gala the following year, it was Queen Bey who gushingly introduced herself to the Mexican-Kenyan actress, rather than the other way around. Also among Nyongo’s fans are Miuccia Prada and no less than three million Instagram followers, no doubt in part garnered by the fact that Nyong’o has turned up on seemingly endless magazine covers—including W, not to mention three issues of Vogue—and even has a day named after herself in New York.

Still, amidst all that, something’s been curiously missing over the last few years: Though she’s starred in franchises as big as Star Wars, Nyong’o’s major non-voice, non-CGI roles since ‘smajor non-voice, non-CGI role since 12 Years a Slave have been few and far between. Only Queen of Katwe has offered us a showcase of Nyong’o unencumbered by CGI, and reminded us how much her use of her own face and body to convey emotion adds to her performances. Thankfully, that seems that it might change sooner than we thought: The latest teaser, unveiled on Wednesday, for Jay-Z and Tidal’s upcoming project 4:44, a mysterious short, NC-17 film and potential visual album starring Nyong’o and Mahershala Ali that’s out on Friday, gives a black-and-white glimpse once again at Nyong’o in all her ultra-emotional glory.

Though only 30, dialogue-less seconds long, the clip, titled “MaNyfaCedGod,” is still long enough to showcase the type of rawness and grit Nyong’o brought to her grueling role as Patsey, which saw her endure scene after scene of graphic assaults. (The clip also even manages to be more exciting than the previous teasers—including the one starring a shirtless boxer played by the notably chiseled Ali.) Though little else has been released about 4:44—including its run time, or even exactly what it is in the first place—if the teaser is any indication, we’ll all be finally getting our Lupita fix.

To be fair, of course, Nyong’o has never gotten close to stepping completely off the map. Last year, she starred opposite David Oyelowo in the critically acclaimed Queen of Katwe, a Uganda-based drama that certainly showcased Nyong’o’s skills, but had a limited release—just like her role in the Broadway play Eclipsed. But before that, Nyongo’s most memorable post-Oscar roles haven’t even shown her face: Earlier that year, only her voice showed up in The Jungle Book when she played a wolf named Raksha, and the year before, though she was a central character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, her entirely CGI role as the wise, 1,000-year-old space pirate Maz Kanata, also made sure it was her voice that took center stage.

In other words, it’s high time Nyong’o herself appears on-screen, and even if 4:44 isn’t what it looks like, at least it’s confirmed we’ll definitely be getting more of Nyong’o soon. In addition to more Star Wars, Nyong’o is also starring opposite Michael B. Jordan in Marvel’s hotly anticipated Black Panther early next year—around the same time production is set to start on Nyong’o upcoming meme-inspired buddy pic, starring none other than Rihanna.

Lupita Nyong’o’s Best Red Carpet Moments, from 12 Years a Slave to Queen of Katwe

Lupita Nyong’o stole the show in a dramatic vermilion Ralph Lauren cape dress and minimal jewelry at the 2014 Golden GLobes.

Photo by Getty Images.

Following her red carpet hit at the Golden Globes, Nyong’o chose a similarly dramatic take on a simple silhouette for the 2014 Critics’ Choice Awards. The combination of her white Calvin Klein Collection dress, Paul Andrew shoes, and Kimberly Macdonald jewelry was simply stunning.

Photo by Getty Images

For the less formal Producers Guild Awards, the 12 Years a Slave ** star looked smart in a beige cutout dress and strappy black sandals by Stella McCartney. She added a bit of texture to the otherwise simple look with a snakeskin-printed Chesneau Heltzel Minaudières clutch and Jamie Wolf jewelry.

Photo by Getty Images

Though nothing could diminish our love for Nyong’o, her outfit of choice for the SAG Awards—a turquoise Gucci dress and matching makeup—was a little too blue for our tastes.

Ethan Miller

Nyong’o’s pretty vintage Valentino dress at Entertainment Weekly’s SAG Awards Pre-Party demonstrated her masterful style.

Nyong’o looked sweet at the Oscar Nominees Luncheon in a light pink, printed Dior dress and Paul Andrew blue velvet pumps. Mise en Dior blue pearl earrings (the trendiest accessory of the season) and a Judith Leiber clutch polished off the pretty look.

In a glamorous green Dior at the BAFTAs—accessorized with a gold metal belt and cuffs, no less—the star reminded us what Hollywood is all about.

Lupita Nyong’o in 2014.

Lupita Nyong’o in Prada at the 2014 Met Gala.

Lupita Nyong’o at the 86th Annual Academy Awards in 2014 wearing Prada.

Lupita Nyong’o at the Oscars in 2015.

Lupita Nyong’o in Gucci at Cannes in 2015.

Lupita Nyong’o at the 2015 Golden Globes.

Lupita Nyong’o in Alessandra Rich in 2015. Photo by Getty Images

Lupita Nyong’o in Dior and Sophia Webster in 2014. Photo by StartraksPhoto.com.

Lupita Nyong’o in Gucci in New York, New York, March 2016.

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Lupita Nyong’o in Balmain on Late Night with Seth Meyers, March 2016.

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Lupita Nyong’o in Dolce & Gabbana at Variety’s Power of Women lunch in New York, New York, April 2016.

WireImage

Lupita Nyong’o in Calvin Klein at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala for Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology in New York, New York, May 2016.

Getty Images

Lupita Nyong’o in Boss at the 70th annual Tony Awards in New York, New York, June 2016.

FilmMagic

Lupita Nyong’o in DPipertwins at the Fem the Future Pre-VMAs Brunch hosted by Janelle Monáe in New York, New York, August 2016.

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Lupita Nyong’o in Carolina Herrera at the premiere of Queen of Katwe at the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada, September 2016.

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Lupita Nyong’o in Mary Katrantzou at the Vanity Fair and Tiffany & Co. dinner in her honor in Toronto, Canada, September 2016.

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Lupita Nyong’o in Erdem on Jimmy Kimmel Live, September 2016.

ABC via Getty Images

Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo attend a screening of Queen of Katwe on September 25, 2016 in New York City.

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Lupita Nyong’o in Kibonen NY promoting Queen of Katwe at Sirius XM Studios in New York, New York, September 2016.

Getty Images

Lupita Nyong’o in Elie Saab at the premiere of Queen of Katwe in Hollywood, California, September 2016.

FilmMagic

Lupita Nyong’o in an Escada coat at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, September 2016.

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Lupita Nyong’o in Monse leaving The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, September 2016.

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Lupita Nyong’o at the 2016 Met Gala.

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