I woke up today feeling pretty good about my life. I have a nice apartment, a good job, supportive friends, and that Academy Award Best Actress nomination from when I was a little kid. Oh wait, I’m confused. I was never nominated for an Oscar, I’m thinking of Quvenzhané Wallis. At age nine, Quvenzhané is the youngest actress ever to be nominated for Best Actress, for her work in Beasts of the Southern Wild, a low-budget sleeper success documenting the collision of reality and surreality as a family weathers a mighty storm in Louisiana. Those are the standard couple of sentences that everyone is using to write up Quvenzhané, because she’s so new on the scene that nobody knows much about her, but we wanted to know more, and we figured you might, too. So here it is, ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration…5 Facts About Quvenzhané Wallis.
- That name. It’s pronounced qua-VAHN-jah-nay, and the first half is a combination of her parents’ names (Qulyndreia, her mother, and Venjie, her father…qu+ven) plus ‘zhane’, which her mother has said means ‘fairy’ in Swahili.
- She beat out 4,000 other girls to play the part of Hushpuppy, but she had to lie about her age to do it. The auditions called for girls ages six and up, but Quvenzhané was five. When she was ultimately cast, the director, Benh Zeitlin, was so impressed by her strong-willed personality that he adjusted the script to include it.
- At 9 years and 135 days, she’s definitely the youngest nominee for Best Actress, but not the youngest nominee ever. Jackie Cooper was 9 years and 20 days old when he was nominated for Best Actor in 1931′s Skippy, and Justin Henry was 8 years and 276 days old when he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Kramer Vs. Kramer.
- In case her full name is too much of a mouthful for you, her nickname is ‘Naysie’.
- To that end, Quvenzhané almost didn’t get the part, not only because of her age, but also because when the casting directors called her house again they were looking for Nayzie:
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’. So they called back and they said they were looking for Nazie. My Mom says, ‘Oh, you must be looking for Quvenzhané.’ They were like, no, we must have called the wrong person and they almost hung up, but my Mom caught them. And she goes, ‘She must have told you Nazie,’ and they were like, ‘Yes, that’s who we’re looking for.’ And that’s Quvenzhané. And they only have found me because the character who is Hushpuppy, she does what is right and she is fearless and that’s what I did at the audition.
Adorable. I can’t stand it. It’s unlikely she’ll win, because Anne Hathaway and her giant maw have already gobbled up all the Oscar hype, but I’m just so excited for her that she got nominated. She deserves it. Make everybody learn your name, girl!