Lupita Nyong'o apologises after Us 'evil' voice disability row

Lupita Nyong’o has apologised after she was criticised for mentioning Robert F Kennedy Jr and the larynx disorder spasmodic dysphonia as inspirations for her role in horror film Us.

Speaking on the View, Nyong’o said: “It’s a very marginal group of people who suffer from this … The thought that I would, in a way, offend them was not my intention. In my mind, I wasn’t interested in vilifying or demonising the condition.”

She added: “I crafted Red with love and care. As much as it [was] in a genre-specific world, I really wanted to ground her in something that felt real. For all that, I say sorry to anyone that I may have offended.”

Red is the name of one of the characters Nyong’o plays in Us, a doppelganger of the film’s lead character Adelaide. Nyong’o explained that the voice she created for the role was “a composite of influences” for which she researched “laryngeal fractures, vocal cord haemorrhages and [my] own experiences with vocal injury”.

In an interview with the New York Times, Nyong’o had cited spasmodic dysphonia – a neurological disorder of which Robert F Kennedy Jr is one of the best known people affected – as a model. The National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association (NSDA) criticised her, saying: “Spasmodic dysphonia is not a creepy voice; it’s not a scary voice. It’s a disability that people are living with and [they] shouldn’t be judged on.” Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of non-profit activist group RespectAbility had also protested, saying: “Connecting disabilities to characters who are evil further marginalises people with disabilities, who also have significant abilities and want to contribute to their communities just like anyone else.”

However, in the wake of Nyong’o’s apology, RespectAbility released a statement saying: “We hope Nyong’o will use this experience to continue lifting up all marginalized groups including the 1-in-5 people who live with disabilities. In general, the Hollywood practice of using disability primarily to villainise people or to show them as objects of pity needs to end.”


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