5 Things You Need to Know About Quvenzhané Wallis

Movies & TV

This year’s Academy Awards nominations have just been announced and Hollywood is abuzz about 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis and her breakout role in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Here’s five things you need to know about the buzzy newcomer actress.

Say Her Name
How do you pronounce her name? Media outlets all over the place have butchered the Swahili-rooted name, but veteran film critic Roger Ebert–who dubbed the actress a “small force of nature”–confirmed that it’s: “kwa van je nay.” The first part combines elements of her mother’s first name, Qulyndreia, and father’s first name, Venjie. Quvenzhané’s nickname is “Nazie.”

She’s 9 Years Old
The pint-sized cutie packs a punch, but she’s only 9 years old. When she won her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild, she was only 5! At the recent Critics Choice Awards, during which she snagged the Best Young Actress accolade, the precocious kid attended holding a puppy purse and read her acceptance speech from her pink phone. How adorable is she?

Beasts of the Southern Wild
In Beasts of the Southern Wild, Nazie plays “Hushpuppy,” a girl trying to save her ailing father during a hurricane in the Louisiana bayou. The film garnered a total of four Academy Award nominations this year: Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, Best Director Benh Zeitlin, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

Best Actress Academy Award
Quvenzhané is the youngest Best Actress nominee in the history of the Academy Awards. When she was 5-years-old, her Mom wouldn’t let her audition for the film because she was too young, so the actress did it anyways. She remembers, “My audition turned out to be at the library and my Mom got a call from one of her friends and it was for a six to nine year old. So my Mom said I couldn’t go ’cause I was only five. But we just went and we act like we’re having nothin’ to do; we had done nothin’ wrong. And we just sneaked in because I was like one year younger so we just sneaked in and we walked out like we ain’t done nothin’.

Her Oscar Reaction
“It makes me feel excited,” Quvenzhané told Entertainment Tonight about her nomination. “It makes me feel special too.” Reportedly, she’s never watched the Oscars before. “Whenever they said you might make it to the Oscars, I was like, ‘Who’s Oscar? I don’t know Oscar.'”