Quvenzhané Wallis just made history by becoming the youngest person to ever be nominated for a best actress Oscar.
The 9-year-old thespian, who was only 5 when she auditioned for her starring role in Beasts of the Southern Wild, joins a very distinguished list of child actors who have been nominated for an Academy Award.
Some went on to great career success as adults while others did not fare as well professionally or personally. Quvenzhané has a very supportive family and, based on the slew of outrageously adorable interviews she’s done, she appears to be a smart, well-grounded young lady.
Let’s take a look at the career trajectory of three pint-sized actors with Oscar wins to see what might be in store for little Quvenzhané should she take home a golden statue.
Until the early 1960s, there used to be a special Juvenile Oscar given to child actors who turned in especially great performances. The last Juvenile Oscar was doled out in 1961.
In 1962, Patty Duke became the first minor to win a regular Oscar against adult actors. She was 16 years old and won in the best supporting actress category for her performance in The Miracle Worker in which she played Helen Keller.
Patty Duke went on to great success as a teenager with the very popular Patty Duke Show. But after that show was cancelled, Duke struggled for many years to re-capture that glory as an adult. Duke was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder and also revealed horrific childhood memories of sexual abuse, violence and alcoholism.
Today, Duke is an ardent mental health advocate and is frequently in made-for-TV movies.
Tatum O’Neal, who was just 10 years old in 1974 when she won the best supporting actress Oscar for her work in Paper Moon opposite her father, Ryan O’Neal, also came from a rocky family background.
In her autobiography A Paper Life, she says she was molested by her father’s drug dealer and that she was physically abused by her father. O’Neal herself has battled heroine and cocaine addictions.
Her professional success has been mostly during her juvenile days (she starred in the original Bad News Bears) though she has been in movies and television shows as an adult.
Fun Fact: Michael Jackson claimed that O’Neal was his first love.
In 1994, at 11 years old, Anna Paquin won the best supporting actress Oscar for her role in the critically acclaimed film The Piano.
Paquin arguably came from a much more stable family life than Duke and O’Neal. After her early success, Paquin was more interested in being a regular kid than becoming an actor and turned down numerous roles, but did do some commercials and finally really caught the acting bug and did several films including Amistad, The 25th Hour and Almost Famous.
Today the 30-year-old Paquin is best known for playing Sookie on HBO’s campy vampire series True Blood.
Is there a curse associated with winning an Oscar at a young age? Meh. Some flourish and some flounder. If anything, it seems to be less about who wins or loses an award as much as the support system a person has.
Do you have a stage mom living vicariously through the child or a supportive parent who is letting a child explore creative outlets?
Quvenzhané seems to have the tools and resources to battle those usual Hollywood demons (drugs, alcohol, etc). So, we should all wish her the very best at the Oscars and beyond.
Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope.