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Quvenzhane Wallis, 9, Reacts to Her Best Actress Oscar Nomination: “I Am So Happy”

Quvenzhané Wallis
Actress Quvenzhané Wallis arrives at the 18th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at Barker Hangar on January 10, 2013 in Santa Monica, California.  

And the award for cutest Oscar nominee goes to…Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild!

On Thursday, Jan. 10, 9-year-old Wallis made history as the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. (The former record-holder for that title was Keisha Castle-Hughes, who was nominated in 2004 at age 13 for Whale Rider.)

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Reacting to the great news, Wallis — who was just 5 when she auditioned to play Hushpuppy in Benh Zeitlin's acclaimed fantasy drama film, her first-ever acting job — said, "Everyone who made Beasts happen is so happy! Thank you to all you Oscar folks, from me, my mom, and my dad. I am so happy for Benh and Lucy [Alibar, who co-wrote the screenplay] and the gang in Louisiana."

"Meeting all these great new people is one of the best parts for me," she continued. "I want to thank my family, friends, fans, and everyone so much. Beast it!"

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Wallis is up against some tough competition in her category — including Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain and Silver Lining Playbook's Jennifer Lawrence — but if she wins, she'll replace Tatum O'Neal as the youngest person ever to receive an Oscar in an acting category. (O'Neal was 10 years old when she earned the Best Supporting Actress award for Paper Moon.)

Fans got a preview of what Wallis' acceptance speech might sound like when she accepted the Best Young Actor/Actress award at Thursday's Critics' Choice Movie Awards. After hugging her director and strutting up to the stage, the Beasts star whipped out her cellphone to read her short but so sweet "thank yous."

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"First I would like to thank God for all my blessings. I would also like to thank the film critics for this award. Thanks to Mr. Benh Zeitlin and the Court 13 family for thinking I could make a good Hushpuppy," she said. "Lastly, to my family, friends, and fans — good night!"

Born in Houma, La., to Qulyndreia and Venjie Wallis, the young star is as fearless as her Beasts character, a little girl trying to save her ailing father and her close-knit Southern bayou community during a hurricane. Speaking with Deadline recently about how she got the part over 4,000 other contenders, she said, "If you are a 5-year-old, you just go ahead and try something. You don't think about it. You are just a little kid."

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Later, she added, "It's kind of good to do things while you're young."

Wallis will next appear in Twelve Years a Slave, an upcoming drama film also starring Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

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