It has been an incredible year for Lupita Nyong'o: The soft-spoken actress nabbed an Academy Award for her role as Patsey in '12 Years a Slave' (her first-ever feature film, might we add), became a worldwide fashion icon and even kicked up some Oscar-season rumors that she was dating Jared Leto. (The pair denied the rumors in the best way possible, of course.) But now, Nyong'o has yet another reason to celebrate -- she has just been named PEOPLE's Most Beautiful Person!

"It was exciting and just a major, major compliment," the 31-year-old actress told the magazine of receiving the honor of becoming the famed magazine's cover girl. "I was happy for all the girls who would see me on [it] and feel a little more seen."

And that is a point that Nyong'o, who is of Kenyan and Mexican descent, holds of the utmost importance.

The dark-skinned beauty was not always fond of her skin color, and, as she revealed in a moving speech at Essence's 'Black Women in Hollywood' speech, used to pray every day that she would magically wake up with a fairer skin tone. But by becoming a famous and highly sought-after actress, she has transformed into a role model for young black girls everywhere.

"I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of 'The Color Purple' were to me," Nyong'o said in her speech.

Still, the Nyong'o's favorite compliments are the ones "when I have been called beautiful with not one drop of makeup on. And also before I comb my hair or put on a pretty dress," she revealed to PEOPLE. "Happiness is the most important thing."

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