Lupita Nyong'o's mother is her “number one cheerleader”.

The 31-year-old actress catapulted to fame with her critically-acclaimed role in 2013 Civil War drama 12 Years a Slave.

Addressing attendees at the Massachusetts Conference for Women in Boston on Thursday, Lupita singled out the one person in the crowd who has had the most profound influence on her career.

"My mummy is here. My number one cheerleader," the star said, becoming emotional, reports

Lupita recalled growing up in Nairobi, Kenya in the 1980s, long before attending the Yale School of Drama and landing her breakthrough role.

Back then, she said, she could never have imagined the scale to which her dreams would be realised.

"What I wanted more than anything was to make believe for a living,” she recalled. “When I watched The Color Purple and watched Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg, a seed was planted in my heart to becoming an actor, but I dared not water it in public."

"Nobody I knew around me was acting for a living,” the star later added, explaining that acting was not considered a “viable career path”.

Since finding her way, Lupita has now pledged to help other women in their struggles to find success.

"We continue to fight for equality, for justice, for freedom, for compassion and we achieve the most when we are awakened and responsive to the desires of our individual hearts," she said. "It is then we can be part of a whole and share our tools to fulfill the bigger picture of a better tomorrow."