She may be little, but she has might! Quvenzhane Wallis, the 9-year-old Louisiana native who tugged at heartstrings and snagged a coveted Academy Award nomination for her role as courageous Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild, is making history this Oscar season as the youngest person to ever be nominated for a Best Actress award.
The four-time Oscar-nominated film (in addition to Wallis' nomination, the lyrical, fantastical flick has also gotten nods for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture) takes place in the southern Delta region, where Hushpuppy's young world is starting to crumble: Six-year-old Hushpuppy's hot-tempered father, Wink, is dying, the ice caps are melting, and the apocalypse is near.
But a resolute Wallis, who also goes by "Nazie" (pronounced NAY-zy) manages to pull the whole story together and rise above it all. Here, Us Weekly shares five things you might not know about the Academy Award nominee.
1. Her unique moniker is a tribute to her parents. Louisiana-born Wallis' unusual first name is a nod to both of her parents' first names: mom Qulyndreia Wallis and dad Venjie Wallis. The first part of her name, "Quven," combines her parents' first names, and her the second part, "zhane," means "fairy" in Swahili.
2. She almost didn't get the part! Wallis was under the cutoff to even audition for the part of Hushpuppy — she was just 5 at the time, and the casting directors were looking for a 6 to 9-year-old for the part. When her mother's friends suggested that Wallis try out, her "mom said, 'She's too young,' and then she just hung up the phone and said, 'Do you want to go to auditions?' So we just tried it, and it worked," she told Deadline.com. Wallis beat out 4,000 other girls for the part.
3. She's an animal lover. The hardest part about her role, she has said, was having to touch a very large Vietnamese potbellied pig. "I wouldn't do that because he was big, black, hairy and different," she told Deadline.com, pausing dramatically between each word. "It was so big, and I was so small, and I knew what it could to to me." Eventually, though, the pair "got to be best friends." She is the proud owner of a German shepherd and a Yorkipoo.
4. She's a game-changer. Director Benh Zeitlin was so taken by Wallis and her outspoken personality that he reportedly made adjustments to his original script to reflect her mannerisms. In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert, Zeitlin even said that if the film were to win just one of the four Oscars, he'd want Wallis to get her best actress award. (The 9-year-old is up against Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva and Naomi Watts).
5. She's up on pop culture. The bite-sized actress has the following artists on her iPod at the moment: Nicki Minaj, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Debby Ryan. What's more, Wallis tells Vogue's Andre Leon Talley that "fashion is my kryptonite" and "I like partying." Look out, America!
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