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Sulwe: Netflix to Adapt Lupita Nyong’o’s Book Into a Musical

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Photo Credit: 'Sulwe' book cover

Lupita Nyong’o, the Hollywood actor who won an Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave, will have her New York Times bestselling book, Sulwe, adapted as a musical by Netflix, the streaming giant announced on Thursday.

Sulwe is based on the actor’s own experiences while growing up as a Black woman. It is about a young-girl named Sulwe, who has skin the colour of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family and anyone else in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. The picture book deals with the issues of colourism, self-esteem, and the idea of self-love that comes associated with beauty.

Sulwe means star in the actor and author’s native language Luo.

It is published by the Simon & Schuster Books and released on October 15, 2019. The illustrations are done by artist and author Vashti Harrison, known for her bestselling book Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.

Sulwe featured on the OTT platform’s original show Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices! and comes as a part of Netflix’s aim for inclusivity, beginning 2020. It is also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Children’s Literary Work, among others.

Netflix released its first Inclusivity Report in January, that offered a peek into the workforce diversity and trends since 2017, when the idea was first conceived. It urges each employee to look at every decision and idea in mind, in terms of inclusion. Calling it the “inclusion lens”, the report states certain steps towards representation that goes beyond the screen. These include recruiting from the under-represented communities such as the Latinos, veteran employees, and Hispanics, hiring more women in the upper ranks, creating accessibility, providing equitable pay and inclusive benefits across genders, and building networks, to name a few.

In terms of content representation, Netflix released a range of both films and series including Blood and Water, Selena: The Series, Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which became two of the major contenders at the awards, and Never Have I Ever, with non-white protagonists in the lead roles.

“The pandemic disproportionately impacted employees from Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. Asian folks around the world endured xenophobic hate incidents. The killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others brought inequality and allyship to the forefront of our minds,” Netflix’s Inclusivity Report stated.

The OTT giant has also dipped its feet in queer inclusion with its 2019 series Special, that deals with a gay man suffering from cerebral palsy, a first for the digital streaming platform.

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