She is the darling of the awards season with an Oscar nomination for her starring role in the movie "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
On Monday afternoon, nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, her mother, Qulyndreia, and the director of the film, Benh Zeitlin, were in D.C. serving as Teachers for a Day.
They were sharing their filmmaking experience with members of the Paso Nuevo/Next Step theater program at Gala Hispanic Theater in Columbia Heights.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is 30-year-old Zeitlin's first feature film.
He says it was a labor of love he wrote, produced and directed with longtime friends.
It's the story of a little girl and her dying father in a tight-knit bayou community. Zeitlin says he was inspired by the people and the towns he saw in Louisiana.
"I really wanted to make a film celebrating hold out and survivors that are struggling to hold on to their land and their culture," says Zeitlin.
The tear-jerking tale has resonated with audiences and garnered many awards, also sealing Wallis as the youngest-ever Oscar nominee. It's an honor she still hasn't quite grasped.
"I just thought it was a film; something we did to have fun," says Wallis. "I never knew that it would go to Sundance, Cannes; never knew that it would end up all right here."
Zeitlin chose Wallis for the part of "Hushpuppy" when she was just five years old. The little girl auditioned on a whim. She had no prior acting experience.
"I can remember a lot of things, and now I remember like an elephant, and that's what my mom tells me. She says I'm a smart cookie," Wallis says.
For the young actors of the Paso Nuevo/Next Step Program, the event was a chance to hear from the experts, and a chance for them to show their skills too.
The program was launched in a partnership with FOX and the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities
Wallis had a few words of advice as teacher for the day.
"Always be strong and always take care of your parents and other kids," she says.
She's a nine-year-old with undeniable star power, sharing the spotlight at center stage where she belongs.
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