How the star of ‘Till’ found the strength to play ‘the mother lode’ of roles in her life
“I didn’t want to do a show, but I just felt like I needed a push. I could have stayed in Atlanta, but I went to NYC and auditioned for Broadway. So what? You get an audition out of nowhere and you got there, and that’s what I did.”
“Every day I walk into the house I look over and I see her. I see her everywhere, I see her in my eyes and I see her in my dreams. I see her in my music. I see her in my heart.”
Nyong’o’s mother is Kim Smith, a singer and composer from Minneapolis, MN. She raised Nyong’o and her brothers at the same time — Kim Smith is Nyong’o’s first-ever celebrity relationship. And while she was very supportive of the young actress, Smith was also very protective of Nyong’o. (Nyong’o says “she was very smart and would look after me, even though I was a little, little girl.”)
Smith had to sign Nyong’o’s contract away from her own name before sending it out to agents. The two didn’t meet for 20 years until Nyong’o saw the movie Love and Other 9/11 Tragedies in 2010. Nyong’o met Smith again in October.
They talked and they played Scrabble, they went to the movies. During that time, Nyong’o wrote and recorded all of her songs for Love and Other. Smith was also very encouraging of Nyong’o’s music. When Nyong’o was in the middle of writing a song for her album she called Smith, who was living in New York. They spent all day laughing about how they’d be a great team. She even told her not to worry about the album if they could take care of each other all day.
And Smith has been taking care of Nyong’o all along while also keeping her busy with the roles in the show. Smith, who took on the role of Gertrude to Nyong’o’s Bert, is constantly giving Nyong’o words of wisdom and inspiration. There’s no more than three days where she doesn’t get a callback for a callback. Smith gives Nyong’o words of wisdom all the time.