5 Things to Know About Lupita Nyong'o

PHOTO: Lupita Nyongo accepts an award for her role in "12 Years a Slave" at the 20th annual SAG Awards, Jan. 18, 2014, in Los Angeles
Frank Micelotta/AP Photo

Watch out Jennifer Lawrence, there's a new It Girl in Hollywood: Lupita Nyong'o.

Thanks to her breakout role in "12 Years a Slave," Nyong'o, 30, is currently the toast of Hollywood.

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"Lupita is showing a lot of strength on the red carpet. She is a very different figure from Lawrence -- sophisticated, reserved and classy," Thelma Adams, Yahoo Movies' contributing editor, told ABCNews.com.

Awards season has the two young stars competing against each other in the supporting actress category. Lawrence, 23, took home the Golden Globe for "American Hustle," while Nyong'o won both the Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice awards. Both are nominated for an Oscar.

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But judging from the smiles they exchanged on the SAG Awards red carpet Saturday, the pair are more friends than rivals. Good thing too, because it looks like Nyong'o is going to be around awhile. Her next film, "Non-Stop," a thriller starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore, opens Feb. 28.

If you're just discovering this fresh new face along with the folks in Hollywood, keep reading to learn five things you may not have known about Lupita Nyong'o.

PHOTO: Lupita Nyongo at a Golden Globes party, Jan. 12, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Amanda Edwards/AP Photo
She Was Born in Mexico, Raised in Kenya

Nyong'o was born in Mexico to Kenyan parents -- hence the name. "My parents gave me a Mexican name," Nyong'o told Yahoo! Movies. "In our culture we are named after the events of the day." At the time of her birth, Nyong'o's father, Kenyan politician Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, was teaching political science at a university in Mexico City, but soon after the family moved back to Nairobi. When she was 16, Nyong'o's parents sent her back to Mexico to learn Spanish. Nyong'o told Yahoo! that her bi-cultural upbringing has "gotten me into a lot of trouble: Kenyans want to claim me and, now, Mexicans do, too." That would make Nyong'o the "first Mexi-Kenyan to be nominated for an Academy Award.

PHOTO: Lupita Nyongo accepts the award for best supporting actress for "12 Years a Slave" at the 19th annual Critics Choice Movie Awards, Jan. 16, 2014, in Santa Monica, Calif.
Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP Photo
She Got Started in Film on the Other Side of the Camera

Home for the holidays from Hampshire College, where she studied film and theater, Nyong'o discovered that the film "The Constant Gardener," with Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, was shooting in her Kenyan neighborhood. Nyong'o got a job on the film as a production assistant and got her first piece of advice on acting from Fiennes. "When I told him that I wanted to be an actor, he sighed heavily and said, 'Lupita, if there's anything else you want to do in your life, do that. Only act if you can't live without it,'" Nyong'o recalled to Yahoo!

PHOTO: Lupita Nyongo in a scene from "12 Years A Slave."
Francois Duhamel/fox Searchlight/AP Photo
She Got Her First Feature Role Straight Out of Acting School

Though Nyong'o wanted to be an actor since age 8 or 9, when she first saw Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover in "The Color Purple," she still wasn't ready to admit it to herself or her parents. In 2009, she wrote, directed and produced "In My Genes," a documentary about the treatment of Kenya's albino population, but acting was still in her thoughts. "I decided to go to drama school because I thought that when I'm 60 and looking back on my life, if acting hadn't been a part of it, I would hate myself," Nyong'o told U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. Nyong'o had just graduated from the Yale School of Drama when she auditioned for the role of tortured slave girl Patsey in "12 Years a Slave." She was chosen out of 1,000 actresses and her life hasn't been the same since.

PHOTO: Brad Pitt, Steve McQueen and actress Lupita Nyongo attend the 20th Annual SAG Awards, Jan. 18, 2014, in Los Angeles.
Mark Davis/Getty Images
What Her Dad Said When She Told Him She Was Doing a Movie With Brad Pitt

Nyong'o has said her dad helped her put things in perspective when she started to feel intimidated by the magnitude of her role and her fellow actors. "My dad was the first person I called when I got this role and I said to him, 'Daddy do you know Brad Pitt? I'm going to be in a movie with him. And he said, 'I don't know him personally, but I'm glad you got a job,'" Nyong'o told the audience at the Screen Actors Guild Awards while accepting her award. "So am I, so am I!"

PHOTO: Leonardo DiCaprio and Lupita Nyongo arrive at the 25th annual Producers Guild of America Awards, Jan. 19, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Jordan Strauss/AP Photo
She Has a Crush on Leonardo DiCaprio

One of the joys of being the toast of Hollywood is getting to meet all the stars. Nyong'o has hobknobbed with celebrities she once idolized, like Winfrey, and had crushes on, like Leonardo DiCaprio. The actress confessed to Jimmy Kimmel that she had one goal at the Golden Globes and that was to meet DiCaprio, whom she's had a crush on since 1996's "Romeo + Juliet." "I went up to him and I said, 'I'm very sorry to bother you, but I'm Lupita Nyong'o, and I've been dying to meet you,'" she told Kimmel days after the Globes. "He was very sweet. He got up and we took a picture together." Now the two are like old friends, with DiCaprio greeting Nyong'o Sunday at the Producers Guild Awards with a kiss on the cheek.

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