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Harlem School of the Arts Mask Ball honors Lupita Nyong'o, raises over $1 million

Lupita Nyong'o honored at gala

Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o and her mom were among the honorees as the Harlem School of the Arts hosted its annual Mask Ball at the Plaza Hotel in New York City Monday night. The gala event honors and celebrates individuals who represent excellence in the arts and education communities. 

Lupita Nyong'o and her mother, Dorothy Nyong'o, were presented with the Visionary Lineage Award. Awards also went to Essence Communications CEO Michelle Ebanks and JPMorgan Chase Managing Director Raquel Oden.

"I believe our founder, Dorothy Maynor, would have been proud to pay tribute to our gala honorees: Michelle Ebanks, Lupita Nyong'o and Dorothy Nyong'o, and Racquel Oden," said Eric G. Pryor, president of the Harlem School of the Arts. "Each recipient was selected based on their leadership and exemplary accomplishments in their field as well as their commitment to service in the community." 

The annual ball raises money to support the Harlem School of the Arts' mission to provide world-class training in, and exposure to, the arts across multiple disciplines. It also helps ensure that students who need financial support can continue their training. The  gala event raised more than $1 million for the fifth consecutive year.

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(L-R): Eric Pryor, president of Harlem School of the Arts; Michelle Ebanks, honoree and CEO of Essence Communications; Racquel Oden, honoree and Managing Director, Northeast Division, JP Morgan Chase; Lupita Nyong'o, honoree; Dorothy Nyong'o, honoree; Charles J. Hamilton Jr., Board of Directors and Chairman. Harlem School of the Arts

Throughout the night, guests were treated to spectacular performances by some of the school's gifted young music, voice and dance students. 

While accepting the Visionary Lineage Award, Nyong'o credited her mother for fueling her passion for art.

"I was thinking about [the Harlem School of the Arts] and what it does for children and its students… I didn't have an institution where I'm from in Nairobi, Kenya, and so the only way my interest in the arts thrived was because I had parents who valued those interests," she said. "My mother in particular, she really nurtured my artistic spirit."

"I really didn't do much," Dorothy Nyong'o said to the ball's attendees. "My job was really to facilitate it and I'd like to encourage parents to do it. Sometimes we make the mistake of trying to make our children what we think we want."

Before guests and honorees enjoyed the night's festivities, CBSN Digital Producer Jonathan McDougle spoke to Lupita Nyong'o and her mother Dorothy Nyong'o:

Jonathan McDougle: You're being honored with the Visionary Lineage Award. How befitting mother and daughter. What does tonight mean for you?

Lupita Nyong'o: For me it's a chance to finally praise my mother, award her for the great work she did in raising me and allowing me to be me. She didn't try to make me different. What I found myself interested in, she encouraged me at every stage of my life. She nurtured my curiosity, and so this is a chance for me to completely declare my love and appreciation for her.

Jonathan McDougle: You just released a children's book talking about embracing your skin and it kind of talks about colorism. What I want to ask you is, what do you say to little boys and little girls who may identify with you, who are in the arts and may have some of those insecurities that you had as a child?

Lupita Nyong'o: Well, buy my book (laughs), number one. And I think the answer is ultimately in each one of ourselves, to save ourselves from whatever it is that the world might put against you. You have to believe in yourself first, you have to encourage yourself first, you have to love yourself first. And when you're true to yourself, then you can usher yourself out of really difficult situations.

Jonathan McDougle: Dorthy, what advice do you have for parents in regards to supporting your children who want to explore the arts?

Dorothy Nyong'o: Your children are already made. And your job is to find out who they're supposed to become and just nurture that. Allow them to be who they're supposed to become.

"Black Panther" actor Atandwa Kani also attended the event and spoke to CBS News on the red carpet. Watch the video below:

Atandwa Kani at the Harlem School of the Arts 2019 Mask Ball
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