The "12 Years a Slave" Oscar-winner, who became an "it" girl following red carpet hit after hit during awards season, will be featured on the cover of the magazine's annual most beautiful issue when it hits newsstands Friday.
Also making this year's list are "The Americans" star Keri Russell; Channing Tatum's wife, actress Jenna Dewan-Tatum; "The Mindy Project" star Mindy Kaling; singer Pink; "Scandal" star Kerry Washington; actresses Amber Heard and Gabrielle Union; former wrestler Stacy Keibler and model Molly Sims.
"It was exciting and just a major, major compliment," the 31-year-old Nyong'o told the magazine of the pulchritudinous honor. "I was happy for all the girls who would see me on [it] and feel a little more seen."
It's a sentiment the newly minted fashion icon also expressed when she became the new face of Lancome cosmetics earlier this month and when she delivered the heartfelt "dream validating" Oscars speech that made her an instant role model in March.
"I feel most beautiful when I'm content," the Mexican-born Kenyan actress said in a video for the mag. "That for me is more important than my physical presentation because it's through inner contentment and happiness that I care about my presentation."
"Happiness is the most important thing," she added.
The Yale School of Drama grad said that after she won the Oscar she "laid low for a week" and wore the same outfit every day, and "that felt great."
Sadly, she said when she was young, the norms she saw on television ("Light skin and long, flowing, straight hair") led her to believe that she wasn't beautiful.
"Subconsciously you start to appreciate those things more than what you possess," she said. But her mother, Dorothy, the managing director and head of PR for the Africa Cancer Foundation, was the first person to tell her she was beautiful and "always said I was beautiful. ... And I finally believed her at some point."
Despite the accolade from People and the Oscar win, the "Non-Stop" actress has yet to book another film.
"I don't know what doors I thought would open, but it's opened doors," she recently said on the "Today" show, skirting around casting news. "Nothing that I can speak of."
Last year, Oscar-winner and GOOP founder Gwyneth Paltrow was given the magazine's top honor. In 2012, it was bestowed upon Sasha Fierce herself, Beyonce Knowles. In November, the mag named Maroon 5 crooner and "The Voice" coach Adam Levine the Sexiest Man Alive.
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