Quvenzhané Wallis was born on August 28, 2003, in Houma, Louisiana. At the age of 5, Wallis won the leading role of Hushpuppy in the feature film Beasts of the Southern Wild, filmed in Louisiana. Wallis's debut performance in the acclaimed 2012 film resulted in a number of awards, honors and nominations. In January 2013, at the age of 9, she became the youngest nominee for an Academy Award in the Best Actress category.
Quvenzhané Wallis was born on August 28, 2003, in Houma, Louisiana. Before their daughter's acting debut, Wallis's parents had no connection to the film industry. Mother Qulyndreia Wallis was a teacher, and father Venjie Wallis worked as a truck driver. Wallis's unusual name reflects her roots: The "Quven" combines her parents' first names, and her parents selected zhané—Swahili for "fairy"—as an homage to her African ancestry.
'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
At the age of 5, Wallis auditioned for her first acting role, the part of Hushpuppy in the feature film Beasts of the Southern Wild. The movie, set in the bayou of Louisiana, featured a cast drawn largely from the local community. Many, like Wallis, had no previous acting experience. Wallis and her parents lied about her age, claiming that she was 6, so that she would be eligible for the role. Ultimately, she emerged from among thousands of actresses to win the leading role of Hushpuppy. Once he had selected Wallis, director Benh Zeitlin made changes to his script so that it would be better tailored to Wallis's outspoken personality.
Beasts of the Southern Wild, produced with a modest budget, garnered immediate critical acclaim. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, winning the Grand Jury Prize. In May 2012, Wallis flew to France for a screening of the film at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, where Beasts won the prestigious Camera D'Or award for best film.
In addition to the honors awarded to the film, Wallis received awards and nominations for her performance. Her early honors include the African-American Film Critics Association Award for best breakthrough performance, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award for best breakthrough performance, the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for best young performer, and the Hollywood Film Festival New Hollywood Award. Along with her awards for an emerging talent or newcomer, Wallis was nominated in the Best Actress category by several organizations and committees.
Youngest Best Actress Oscar Nominee
On January 10, 2013, at age 9, Wallis became the youngest Academy Award nominee for best actress. Beasts of the Southern Wild received an Oscar nomination for best picture, with director Benh Zeitlin also receiving nominations for best director and best adapted screenplay. The nominations, while not entirely unexpected, did also not seem assured after the film was passed over for Golden Globe nominations earlier in the awards season.
Drama and Musical
Wallis next appeared in the 2013 film 12 Years a Slave, starring opposite actors Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender. The movie, directed by Steve McQueen, is based on a true story about a free African American from the North who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the lead characer in the film.
After this historical drama, Wallis decided to explore something more lighthearted. In 2014 she starred as the title character in the latest film adaptation of the popular musical Annie, for which the actress has earned a Golden Globe nomination.
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