Lupita Nyong'o Is Named People's Most Beautiful 2014

Jennifer Lopez. Beyoncé Knowles. Gwyneth Paltrow. And now, Lupita Nyong'o.

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.

PEOPLE’s Most Beautiful Women: Then & Now

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.

Nyong'o now relishes "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 reveals. "Happiness is the most important thing."

From Child Stars to Grown-up Beauties

Although the actress is unquestionably stunning, the magazine's choice is somewhat surprising. People has traditionally chosen more established stars for the "Most Beautiful" title, and Nyong'o is still a newcomer, having just one miniseries and two movies on her resume.

She did, however, become the unofficial star of awards season when she proved to always be a bright spot on the red carpet. Nyong'o consistently topped many best dressed lists as she made the rounds to accept awards for "12 Years."

Most Beautiful at Every Age

Other women (and three men: Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mel Gibson) who've accepted the "Most Beautiful" honor all have impressive careers in Hollywood, and Nyong'o is clearly following in their footsteps. An unknown just six months ago, Nyong'o is already an Oscar winner and, it was announced this month, the newest ambassador for the beauty brand Lancome. She's obviously well on her way to becoming a beautiful A-lister.