Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o delivered an emotional speech at the annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon during which she revealed she used to pray for lighter skin.

The 12 Years a Slave star accepted an award at the Essence magazine luncheon and during her acceptance speech reportedly told of how she used to pray for lighter coloured skin and revealed that seeing model Alek Wek on the runways gave her a new confidence in herself.

The New York Daily News printed Nyong’o’s speech, “My one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned.

"The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I was the day before.

“A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact...

"When I saw Alek [Wek] I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty.”

Nyong’o hopes that by speaking about how she felt, and how she overcame it, will make girls that are in a similar position realise they are beautiful too.

At the luncheon she read a letter sent to her by a young fan and responded, “I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey.

"That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shame in black beauty.”

The rising star has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for tomorrow’s (March 2) annual Academy Awards for her work in Steve McQueen's acclaimed 12 Years A Slave.