Lupita Nyong’o conquered her fear of cats for starring film role

Lupita Nyong'o overcame fear of cats for A Quiet Place: Day One
Lupita Nyong’o overcame fear of cats for A Quiet Place: Day One. The montage is by MikeB from images from Universal as I understand it.
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Lupita Nyong’o is a Kenyan-Mexican actress who has achieved great success in Hollywood. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Academy Award winner: Her breakout role came in 2013 with the movie “12 Years a Slave” where she delivered a powerful performance, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
  • Diverse filmography: Since then, she has starred in a wide variety of films including big-budget blockbusters like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) and Black Panther” (2018), critically acclaimed horror films like “Us” (2019), and voice acting in animated features like “The Wild Robot” (2024).
  • Kenyan-Mexican background: Born in Mexico to Kenyan parents, Nyong’o embodies a dual heritage and identifies as Kenyan-Mexican.

New film role

Lupita Nyong’o plays a starring role in A Quiet Place: Day One with her male leading actor, Joseph Quinn, with whom she got on very well according to the reports. She describes him as a “open, generous, [and] funny person.”

The film requires an intimate relationship between her and Joseph Quinn, her co-star, mainly because this is a film with no dialogue and therefore it becomes very intimate. This is a consequence of the fact that they have to communicate with behaviours and body language.

You may have seen the film, and the film franchise that has emerged out of it. It concerns an invasion of planet Earth by aliens who are blind but have super-sensitive hearing. They are also incredibly aggressive and enormously mobile and dynamic. They strike terror into American communities who have to stay completely silent and walk as if on eggshells in order to avoid being attacked by these terrifying creatures.

I have not seen this particular film but at some stage, a cat joins the ‘family’ and features quite prominently it seems to me. The picture on this page tells us that this cat is a Turkish Van type cat because of the markings on their forehead. This is an inverted V which is typical of a Turkish Van cat.

That’s not actually relevant to this discussion but it’s a nice touch I think. We don’t know why Lupita Nyong’o had a fear of cats but she says the following about her experience,

“I was very afraid of cats before I made this movie. It’s actually why I hesitated about whether I would accept this role or not because of my fear of cats. I had to get over my fear of cats before I could start this movie. But they were they were spectacular.”

I was very brave of her to agree to be desensitised to the presence of cats. She was possibly put in touch with a specialist who densensitized her to cats.

The way you cure a fear of cats is to desensitise the person which means very gradually, step-by-step, introducing that person to kittens in cages and then gradually graduating to the point where you can touch a cat without being fearful.

Below is a more about a fear of cats. Sometimes the fear originates in nothing more than what your parents passed on to you through general conversations. Perhaps Lupita Nyong’o’s parents or mother was fearful of cats and without knowing it and without any deliberate intention, made her daughter slightly fearful of cats which may have hardened over time.

It is probably fair to say that the citizens of Kenya are more likely to have a fear of cats than the citizens of a Northern European country due to an increase in the likelihood of superstitions.

The fact that she was able to overcome her fear of cats indicates that it wasn’t too deeply ingrained on this occasion and I would expect her to be perfectly able to interact with cats. I’ve not seen the film but it appears that the domestic cat features in this film as a pet to this couple or perhaps they rescue the pet from the streets. It’s nice to have a cat featuring a film by the way. I look forward to seeing the film.

Some more on desensitizing

A fear of cats, also known as ailurophobia, can be tackled through a process called desensitization, a type of exposure therapy. Here’s how it works:

Gradual Exposure:

  • Start with non-threatening stimuli: Begin by looking at pictures or videos of cats. Choose calming scenes of cats relaxing or playing.
  • Progress slowly: Once comfortable with pictures, move on to watching cat videos with sounds. As comfort builds, consider watching videos of people interacting with cats calmly.
  • Introduce physical objects: When comfortable with videos, find a friend with a cat who can lend you a stuffed animal or a blanket that the cat has used. The familiar scent can be a good introduction.

Pair Positive Experiences:

  • Reward progress: Throughout the process, reward yourself for each step you take. This reinforces positive associations with cats.
  • Relaxation techniques: Combine exposure with relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation to manage any anxiety that arises.

Consider Professional Help:

  • Therapist guidance: A therapist can create a personalized desensitization plan and provide support throughout the process. They can also address any underlying causes of the fear.
  • Seek professional help if needed: If the fear is severe or interferes with daily life, consulting a therapist experienced in phobias is recommended.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Learn about cats: Understanding cat behavior can dispel myths and make them seem less scary.
  • Set realistic goals: Don’t push yourself too fast. Take things at your own pace.
  • Be patient: Desensitization takes time and consistent effort. Celebrate small victories.

Remember, the key is gradual exposure in a safe and controlled environment. With patience and positive reinforcement, you can overcome your fear of cats.

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