Who Is ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ Star Quvenzhané Wallis?

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Quvenzhané Wallis has made history.

At age 9, the Beasts of the Southern Wild lead is the youngest to be nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award. The acclaimed indie — also vying for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay — chronicles life in the flood-devastated landscape of the Louisiana bayou through the eyes of Hushpuppy (played by Wallis), a fiercely independent and imaginative 6-year-old on the brink orphanage who sets out on a journey to the outside world.

Now after being overlooked by the Screen Actors Guild, Wallis has garnered high praise from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for her performance, giving her a chance to dethrone Tatum O’Neal as the youngest winner in Oscar history. And Wallis couldn’t be more thrilled to be the toast of the town.

“Thank you to all you Oscar folks, from me, my mom and my dad,” she said, according to The Wrap. “I am so happy for Behn and Lucy and the gang in Louisiana. Meeting all these great new people is one of the best parts for me. I want to thank my family, friends, fans and everyone so much. Beast it!”

While Wallis joins many Hollywood big-names in this year’s Oscar nominees, the industry newcomer is still much of a mystery. So who is this wildly-talented child actress?

Celebuzzdug up five need-to-know facts about this little girl on fire.

1. Say my name.
The actress’ name may be a mouthful, but it’s pronounced Kwe-VAHN-zhah-nay. The first portion of her name is a blend of her parent’s first names, while zhané means fairy in Swahili. But don’t worry, just call her by her nicknames, Nazie — pronounced NAY-zee — or Little Q.

2. Acting novice.
Beasts of the Southern Wild was her first film venture. And Wallis is still wrapping her head around watching herself on the silver screen.”It’s kind of weird, because you see a bigger you,” she told AwardsLine. “And then you look at yourself, and you think, ‘Why am I so much smaller than the real one up there?’ And then you look at yourself and go, ‘Wait, I’m the real one!'”

3. Southern charm.
Wallis was born in Houma, Louisiana, the daughter of Qulyndreia, a teacher, and Venjie Wallis, Sr., a truck driver.

4. Age is just a number.
Before wowing moviegoers on the big screen, Wallis, at age 5, lied about her age in order to audition for Beasts, as the starring role required a minimum age of 6. “The audition turned out to be for six to nine year olds, so my mom said I couldn’t go cause I was only five,” Wallis explained in an interview with Roger Ebert. “So we just went and we act like…we ain’t do nothing wrong. And we just sneaked in, cause I was like one year younger.”

5. A perfect fit.
Why did Wallis land the starring role in the film? “That character who is Hushpuppy is…active. She does what is right and she is fearless,” the young actress said. “And that’s what I did at the audition.”

Watch to find out who wins when the 85th Academy Awards ceremony is broadcast on ABC February 24, 2013.

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