theGrio’s 100: Quvenzhané Wallis, 9-year-old actress making history in Hollywood

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Quvenzhane Wallis attends the 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' premiere during the 56th BFI London Film Festival at the Odeon West End on October 12, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images for BFI)

Quvenzhane Wallis attends the 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' premiere during the 56th BFI London Film Festival at the Odeon West End on October 12, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images for BFI)

Who is Quvenzhané Wallis?

Quvenzhané Wallis, 9, is best known for her leading role as Hushpuppy in the critically-acclaimed drama Beasts of the Southern Wild. Wallis was born in Houma, Louisiana in 2003. Her mother, Qulyndreia Wallis, is a teacher and her father, Venjie Wallis, works as a truck driver. “Quven,” the first part of her name, combines her parents’ first names, while her mother says that zhané means “fairy” in Swahili.

Why is she on theGrio’s 100?

Wallis received an Oscar nomination for her leading role in Beasts of the Southern Wild, making her the youngest performer to ever be nominated in the leading actress category. She auditioned for the lead role when she was only 5 years old, and was 6 when she began filming the movie in Pointe-aux-Chenes and Isle de Jean Charles, not too far from her hometown of Houma, Louisiana.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was Quvenzhané’s first time acting.  In the moving role, she plays a “little girl with a wild imagination struggling to survive in the southern Delta with her ailing father as a storm approaches.”

What’s next for Wallis?

The 9-year-old starlet currently attends Honduras Elementary School in Houma, Louisiana. She will next appear in Steve McQueen’s drama Twelve Years a Slave, which centers on a man living in New York City during the mid-1800s who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deep South. The film is set to be released later this year.