Lupita Nyong'o bagged the Breakthrough Performance Award at the 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala on Saturday evening.
The award is for her role in the Steve McQueen flick 12 Years a Slave. The 30-year-old actress is slated for an Oscar nomination according to movie critics.
The awards gala also presented honours to Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, director Steve McQueen, Matthew McConaughey, Bruce Dern, Thomas Newman and the cast of American Hustle. The festival runs from January 3-14.
Actress Alfre Woodard presented Lupita with the Breakthrough Performance Award saying "Whip out your sunglasses darling...a star has arrived."
Lupita, in a tearful speech, spoke of taking her family to Louisiana to the plantation that Patsey (her character in "12 Years a Slave") was raised on. "I played a suffering role, but I did not suffer. Thanks to director Steve McQueen for creating a family on set."
"Lupita Nyong'o is outstanding as the exploited slave whose beauty attracts the attention of Michael Fassbender's vicious slave master. She delivers a raw and deeply moving performance that serves as the fulcrum for the film's message of the inhumanity of slavery," said Film Festival Chairman Harold Matzner.
Past recipients of the Breakthrough Performance Award include Jennifer Hudson and Mariah Carey.