Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest nominee up for Best Actress at the 2013 Oscars. Fast-forward to 2017 and she’s the author of not one, but two books! She was only 9 years old when she received undoubtedly the biggest honor one could receive in film for her role as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that by 14, she’s already an accomplished children’s author. Both books, Shai & Emmie Star in Break an Egg! and A Night Out With Mama, became available for purchase on October 4. BET.com had the chance to catch up with the new high school freshman who took a break from classes for a quick press run in New York City.
Although most remember Quvenzhané, also known back then as Little Q, in girly gowns toting a puppy purse on the red carpet, in walked a much taller teen wearing jeans and sneaks — no puppy purse in sight. She admits that the glitzy dresses from her younger years were her mom’s doing and she actually didn’t like them one bit. “That was me!” her mom says owning up to playing stylist for her daughter back when she could get away with it. But these days Quvenzhané is calling the shots when it comes to her wardrobe and her budding career as a writer. But as she clutches her phone waiting to catch up with classmates back home in Louisiana, you can tell she is still every bit a normal teenager in 2017.
BET: Can you tell us a little bit about both your books and what inspired you to create them?
Quvenzhané Wallis: A Night Out With Mama is the picture book about the Oscar night [I was nominated] and went with my mom. And then Shai & Emmie Star in Break an Egg is a chapter book about Shai and her best friend Emmie. They go to a performing arts school and there’s a new girl, Gabby, that comes in and she’s supposed to be from Hollywood. There’s a play at their school and Shai doesn’t get the part and Gabby does and she’s trying not to hate her or be upset that she didn’t get the role that she wanted.
BET: What career advice have you received from folks in the industry?
QW: Pretty much everyone I’ve worked with has given me advice. When I worked with Jamie Foxx [for the Annie re-boot] he gave me really great advice just to be myself and don’t let anything really get in my way. That’s what I’ve always tried to do. And also, just have fun and enjoy what I do.
BET: Any favorite children’s books or authors you had as a kid?
QW: My favorite author is Dr. Seuss. When I was younger, he was the man. I liked Roald Dahl, too. I remember reading a lot of his books growing up.
BET: What is life like on a regular basis for you? Do you attend a normal school or are you home-schooled?
QW: Normal school. Pretty much, it’s just sports and school and hanging out with my friends. I play volleyball and basketball and I’m on the dance team. I’m focused on trying to get the books out there and school, just getting my grades up further.
BET: How do your friends at school react to your fame?
QW: Really, it’s not a big deal to them because I’ve been going to the same school for a few years now. But when something new does come out, my friends are like, “Oh that’s cool. I saw you here or there,” and then they get over it and that’s it. We don’t really talk about it ever again until I get back from something else and they’re like, “Girl, I saw you out there.”
(Photo: Rebecca Smeyne/BET)