"It was exciting and just a major, major compliment," the 31-year-old actress said of the honor, adding, "I was happy for all the girls who would see me on [it] and feel a little more seen."
The People cover marks the latest in a series of triumphs that are shaping up as perhaps the most meteoric rise to stardom in recent memory.
Born in Mexico City to Kenyan parents and raised in Nairobi, Nyong'o graduated from the Yale School of Drama and was was still an unknown when she was cast in Steve McQueen's historical drama "12 Years a Slave" opposite Michael Fassbender. The film opened to stellar reviews last October and immediately put Nyong'o on the map as an awards-season frontrunner for her performance as the tortured field worker Patsey.
Nyong'o would go on to collect nominations for Golden Globe and BAFTA acting honors, and to win best supporting actress at the SAG Awards, Spirit Awards and the Oscars.
She navigated the awards circuit with aplomb, turning heads with flawless red-carpet looks and charming audiences with heartfelt acceptance speeches. She even made it into Ellen DeGeneres' famous Oscar selfie.
Since her "12 Years" breakout and Oscar win, Nyong'o has appeared in only one other film, the Liam Neeson airplane thriller "Non-Stop," a role she landed before the buzz began.
She reportedly met with "Star Wars: Episode VII" director J.J. Abrams recently, but then again, nearly every actor in Hollywood seems to have done the same.
Nyong'o has been has been very deliberate in choosing her next move, and in doing so follows in the footsteps of fellow rising stars Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley, who eventually parlayed momentum from acclaim in smaller films such as "Winter's Bone" and "The Descendants" into mainstream success.
Even so, Nyong'o has been highly visible of late, stopping by the MTV Movie Awards and joining cosmetics company Lancome as a brand ambassador this month.
Earlier this week, she signed with Creative Artists Agency, where she will be represented by Hylda Queally. Queally also represents such high-profile foreign actresses as Marion Cotillard, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Berenice Bejo and Noomi Rapace.
In other words, don't be surprised if Nyongo's name starts popping up in more high-profile projects very soon.