By// S. Tia Brown
If most little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, the powers that be added an extra dash of sweetness, and tripled the dosage of zest when brewing the greatness that is Quvenzhané Wallis, fourth grader extraordinaire. The girl has chops— and not just when it comes to acting.
Maybe you’ve seen her on The Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno or simply chatting with Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley. But Wallis’ natural ability to balance the innocence and fearlessness of childhood, with the poise and comedic timing of a seasoned professional, have placed her on Hollywood’s most wanted list. And the world has taken notice.
If life is a journey, starring in director Benh Zeitlin’s debut film, Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), didn’t merely re-chart her course; it completely changed her terrain. “I knew Quvenzhané was perfect for the role of Hushpuppy the first time she came into a callback,” Zeitlin tells JET. “She shifted gears into this mixture of toughness and vulnerability. Other kids had played it cute. I knew then she was unlike anyone we’d ever seen.”
Like most kindergarteners, the youngster still had many of her baby teeth, and was just etching past the intonations that separate toddlers and grade-schoolers, when she went out for the lead in the small budget film… on a whim. “I would always play pretend with my friends in the street or at school,” says Wallis, now 9. “Acting was just something I wanted to give a try.”
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