Quvenzhané Wallis is a child actress, model and singer. She was born on August 28, 2003 to a teacher named Qulyndreia, and a truck driver named Venjie Wallis, Sr. Her unique name reflects a combination of her parents’ names and the word “zhané” is Swalihi for fairy. She has two sisters and a brother. Wallis auditioned for her first acting job at the age of 5, although her parents lied about her age to make her eligible for the part as the minimum age specified for the role was 6 years. She was selected out of 4000 other candidates to play the part of “Hushpuppy” in the film “Beasts of the Southern Wild”.
The director of the film was Benh Zeitlin was very impressed by Wallis’s audition as well as her outspoken personality, reading ability and clear voice. This was especially impressive, given Wallis’s lack of acting experience. Her role was the main character of the film, that of a child prodigy living with her dying father in Louisiana. Zeitlin said in several interviews how impressed he was by Wallis’s personality and even rewrote some of the dialogue to cater it to her confident, outspoken personality. The film was released on June 27, 2012 and it was immediately a huge success.
The film was featured at the Sundance Festival in January 2012, where it received excellent reviews and also won the Grand Jury Prize. It was also featured at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, for which Quvenzhané Wallis flew to France. Here it won the Caméra d’Or award for Best first Feature Film and Wallis’s performance received critical acclaim. She received several awards and nominations for her performance, including 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.
In January 2013, at the age of 9, she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, making her the youngest actress in history to receive a nomination in this category. She is the first African American child actress to have received an Oscar nomination, as well the only person born in the 21st century to have received it so far. Along with Wallis’s nomination, the film also received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. In 2013, Quvenzhané Wallis starred in another major motion picture, “12 Years a Slave”. The movie is directed by Steve McQueen, and is based on a true story about a free African American man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. She starred opposite Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays the lead role in the film.
Next, she coordinated with Sundance short film called Boneshaker. In 2014, she starred in a musical called “Annie”, a remake of a 1977 Broadway play. Her performance was critically acclaimed, and she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. The same year, she was recruited as a model for several high end brands such as Armani Junior, which was Armani’s clothing line for children and teens. This made her the first child celebrity to receive a modeling contract from a major luxury brand. The actress currently lives with her parents and siblings in Houma, Louisiana.