Quvenzhané Wallis was the youngest actress ever to receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She is known for her role as Hushpuppy in the drama film Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), 12 Years a Slave (2013) and for starring in the 2014 Annie remake, receiving a Golden Globe nomination for her work in the movie.
Quvenzhané Wallis (pronounced “Qui-ven-ZHEN-ay”) was born on August 28, 2003 in Houma, Louisiana, USA. The Zhané part of her name means “fairy” in Swahili. At age 5, Nazie (her nickname), had to fib about her age to audition for her very first acting job–the starring role in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) because the minimum age to be considered was six. She eventually beat out some 4,000 other local kids to play Hushpuppy–the indomitable child prodigy and survivalist who lives with her dying father in the backwoods bayou squalor of Louisiana. Director Benh Zeitlin told The Daily Beast that when he auditioned Wallis, he immediately realized he had discovered what he was looking for, and changed the Beasts script to accommodate her strong-willed personality. Her reading ability, loud scream, and the skill of burping on command impressed the director and won her the part. Zeitlin has also stated that “it was just the feeling behind her eyes”
The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2012 to rave reviews, winning the Grand Jury Prize. In May 2012, Wallis flew to France for the premiere of the film at the Cannes Film Festival. The film received much acclaim and praise for Wallis’ outstanding performance and it went on to win the prestigious Caméra d’Or award for Best first Feature Film. On January 10, 2013, at age nine, Wallis became the Academy Awards’ youngest nominee for Best Actress and third youngest in all categories. However, she was just six during the filming. Wallis is the first African-American child actor to earn an Oscar nomination. She is also the first person born in the 21st century to receive an Academy Award nomination. She is also the 10th black actress to be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. She joins the ranks of Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Gabourey Sidibe and Viola Davis.
In a ceremony on the night of November 14, 2012, Quvenzhané was acknowledged and honored with the key to her hometown, Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, for her work in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012).
Wallis had a role in the film 12 Years a Slave (2013), and collaborated with Sundance for the second time on a short film called Boneshaker. In 2014, she played the title character in a remake of the musical Annie. For this, she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and received praise from most reviewers, despite the film being considered a poor adaption of the classic Broadway show. In May 2014, Wallis was named the face of Armani Junior, Giorgio Armani’s line for children and teens. This makes her the first major child celebrity to be the face of a luxury brand.