People has named the 31-year-old actress, who won an Oscar for her breakout performance in last fall's 12 Years a Slave, 2014's Most Beautiful in its annual issue.

While receiving the "Most Beautiful" title is pretty cool in itself, Nyong'o says she is thrilled to receive the honor because of what it means for others.

"It was exciting and just a major, major compliment," she tells the mag. "And especially, I was happy for all the girls who would see me on [it] and feel a little more seen."

Nyong'o, who was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya, grew up thinking that she didn't fit into the mold of what was considered beautiful. After all, she didn't look like anyone she saw on TV. Those women had "light skin and long, flowing, straight hair," she notes. "Subconsciously you start to appreciate those things more than what you possess." She credits her mother with changing her mind.

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