Quvenzhané Wallis, the star of Annie, is an absolute powerhouse. Her acting skills are undeniable, and she is absolutely adorable on screen and in interviews. Wallis is the youngest actress to receive a nomination for the Academy Awards for Best Actress, and has worked alongside countless other great actors and actresses including Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. Despite only appearing in a handful of roles, she has been nominated for several awards and won quite a few of them. Despite her youth, innocence, and sunny disposition, Wallis has still been torn down by critics for various reasons.
Since working on Annie, interviewers have been shortening Wallis’ name and calling her by her character’s name claiming her name is “too hard to pronounce.” However, Annie and Quvenzhané are two different people; one is a character, and one is a real person. Wallis should be treated with respect, no matter what her age. Wallis even gives an adorable step by step demonstration of how to pronounce her name which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7rR-qRVLD0
Despite this, the young actress always tries to find the silver lining. In an interview with Nicholas Haramis of T magazine, Wallis is quoted, saying, “I’m not gonna name names, but sometimes when reporters are talking it gets a little boring because I don’t have any jokes to tell because the questions are so serious.”
She tries to tell jokes to ease the tension, but she’s right; it does get serious. During the 2013 Oscars Awards gala, someone at The Onion attempted to make a “joke” and called Wallis the C-word on Twitter. At that time, she was only nine years old. They quickly retracted their statement, but the damage was done. During one of her more recent interviews, David Muir asks Wallis, the Person of the Week, if she had watched the previous version of Annie as a little girl. Without skipping a beat, Wallis scrunches up her face and answers, “Well, I’m still a little girl,” which is true; eleven is still seen as “little” by many people. She is only in sixth grade. She still has a life at home, reading and playing video games.
Wallis is only being treated this way because she is something different. Her name is different, her skin is different, and her story is different. She is an African American girl in the spotlight. If people can learn to pronounce, spell, and made Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, and Galifianakis (among others) household names, people can learn to spell and pronounce Quvenzhané. It is uncertain if America is scared of her race or of something else about her, but America is reducing her power to something it can comprehend instead of embracing her for what she is. Instead of making fun of her, learn about her. Learn from her.