Lupita Nyong’o, New York Magazine

Erik Madigan Heck/New York Magazine

The term "whirlwind" doesn't seem dramatic enough when describing Lupita Nyong'o's past year. The 12 Years a Slave star went from being a unknown Kenyan actress to a Oscar nominee and fashion It girl—already scoring her first major spokesmodeling gig with Miu Miu.

"I've been in a bubble. I haven't been out much. I haven't gotten used to being recognized," she shares with New York magazine. "I was blissfully ignorant of the magnitude of the project I was in or what it was going to mean for the world."

Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong'o, Critics' Choice

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

And when she refers to "being recognized" she doesn't just mean citizens on the streets. The paparazzi are already begun to follow her every move. "I don't know who they were waiting for, but they definitely chased me down, which is a startling, disturbing experience." She says, adding: "I did not expect it. I went into flight mode."

That wasn't the only shock Lupita experienced after moving to America. "I thrive on structure," she says. "I find my freedom in structure. It was very hard to adjust to an individualistic and very liberal system. I mean, my upbringing, I would iron my clothes every night. I would plan what I wore the night before, and then I would iron it. That's just the way my mom raised us. Then I got to Hampshire, where clothing is sometimes optional and all this kind of thing. I was mortified." 

Not that the actress—who shared that she has been on a gluten-free diet for the past nine months—was unfamiliar with American culture, she grew up watching a lot of U.S. sitcoms including Step by Step, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Hangin' With Mr. Cooper and Full House.

Yes, a lot has changed since she uttered five lines in her Oliver Twist middle school play debut. But as they say, you must take the sour with the sweet. "Stressed but blessed—I mean, I couldn't have dreamed this up," she describes her current state, adding: "There are so many highlights that are no longer highlights," she says evenly. "I'm living a very swollen life."

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