BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Best supporting actress Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong'o says when she was a young girl, she wished her dark-hued skin would become lighter.

The "12 Years a Slave" star delivered an emotional speech while accepting her honour for best breakout performance at Essence magazine's seventh annual Women in Hollywood luncheon Thursday.

She confessed that she tried to bargain with God to see a change in her skin tone. It wasn't until she discovered supermodel Alek Wek that she began to believe in her own beauty.

Essence also paid tribute to Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first black president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Also honoured were Ava DuVernay, the first black woman to win best director at the Sundance Film Festival, and the champions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.