quvenzhané wallis is the 11-year-old, oscar nominated actress taking hollywood by storm
We talk to the Annie actress about dreams, acting and Frozen.
Quvenzhané wears jacket G-Star. Top model’s own. Sunglasses Garrett Leight California Optical.
Remember the year 2000, when we all buried time capsules and everything felt like it was about to become futuristic and silver and shiny overnight? Quvenzhané Wallis doesn't. In fact, the star of Beasts Of The Southern Wild, 12 Years A Slave and Annie wasn't even born yet. That all went down in Louisiana circa 2003, and now aged 11 she's taking centre stage as orphan Annie in the Jay-Z and Will Smith-produced, Sia-soundtracked movie that's surely the coolest thing to have happened to musicals since Johnny Depp in Cry Baby. What had you achieved by age 11? A couple of swimming certificates maybe? A merit badge at school? Quvenzhané has already been announced as the face of Armani Junior, nominated for a Golden Globe, become the youngest ever nominee for a Best Actress Academy Award, and the very first African-American child actor to receive an Oscar nomination.
When we call Q for a chat, she's taking a break from schooling, kicking back with her mum and a bacon cheeseburger. They laugh and joke together as we chat over loudspeaker, mid-munch. With 11 year olds who haven't been through the Disney factory, there is a refreshing lack of formal media training.
As you'd expect from a child actor, Quvenzhane is very sure of herself. In fact, she seems to share many qualities with Annie. "Yeah, I feel like we're basically the same - we just had our different things going on. It was a lot of fun playing the role how I really am, getting to do what I really do". As in the original, the whole movie is set and filmed in New York, a city that Quvenzhane grew to love. "My favourite place in New York is Times Square, and my favourite place to eat is Bubba Gump. You should try it, it's fantabulous!" Quvenzhane finds lines surprisingly easy to learn, simply going over and over and over them with her acting coach. "There's nothing bad about being an actress, it's been really fun for me so far," she says.
Having said that, she'd quite like to try her hand at being a popstar one day. "It's definitely something I would like to be talented enough to do, and it would be fun, sooooo…" she trails off. She wants to be like her favourites, Zendaya and Beyoncé, because "they're really inspiring and their music is awesome." She went to a Beyoncé concert recently and loved it, presumably aware that back in 2012 Bey took to her blog to call Q a shining star, an inspiration, congratulating her on Beasts Of The Southern Wild and her Oscar nomination. The mutual fans also posed for photos together at the NYC premiere of Annie, an event that Quvenzhané refers to as the best party she's ever been to. "It was really fun because all the actors and actresses were there - even ones that weren't in the movie!"
Accompanying her on that same red carpet was her on-set pooch, Annie's dog Sandy. Quvenzhane loves dogs and is quick to chat about her own Yorkie, Sammy. "He's eight-years-old, black and white with brown eyes, and he is spoiled like a baby, a cat and a dog all in one! We've had him ever since he was one and we're very close." Like most little girls (and big girls, and boys, and i-D staff), Quvenzhané loves Frozen. The songs Love Is An Open Door and For The First Time In Forever are her favourites, and she wishes she could be friends with Olaf and Sven. For the less initiated, Olaf is a snowman and Sven a reindeer. "It's a pretty awesome soundtrack," she vouches.
Between 12 Years A Slave and Annie, the busy bee had time for a spot of voice acting in Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. She voices one of the leads, Almitra, alongside Liam Neeson's Mustafa and Salma Hayek's Kamila. "It was actually kinda cool 'cause when you're filming you have to make sure you look nice - not too party or anything - but you have to at least look nice. But when you're doing the voice for someone, you can even wear your PJs! Of course I didn't actually go to the studio like 'What's upppp!' in my PJs, but I'm just saying…" This year will see the release of Fathers and Daughters, by The Pursuit of Happyness Director Gabriele Muccino. Quvenzhané plays a troubled child, with Amanda Seyfried and Russell Crowe also starring. She will play yet another troubled child, Willow Chance, the 12-year-old lead in a film adaption of the award-winning book, Counting By 7s.
Considering the fact that Quvenzhané Wallis has achieved more than you had at the age of 11, and possibly even now, we asked her to give one piece of advice to grown-ups. "Don't ever push your children to do something that you wish you'd done in your childhood," she says with earnest, "because you don't know if they actually want to do it. Maybe they'll be one of the best or smartest at something else, something that they want to do. You never know!"
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Columbine Goldsmith
Styling Natalie Toren