All Articles Tagged "quvenzhané wallis"

The “Quvenzhané” Advantage: Don’t Be So Quick to Laugh at Wallis’ Name

March 6th, 2013 - By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
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Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

There’s a reason celebrities tend to pick uncommon names for their kids. Contrary to the Oscar voter who said of Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis: “Her
parents really put her in a hole with that name,” unconventional monikers can lend a significant advantage.

Admitting his own “slightly unusual first name” has been a professional boon, writer Teddy Wayne suggests, in a recent New York Times article, that our culture expects artists to have unpredictable names. It’s the reason many recording artists adopt fake names (Jay-Z and Lady Gaga anyone?), and why there is an idea of what a “writerly name” is.

Kanye at the Martin Margiela fashion show in January. (AP Photo/Zacharie Scheurer)

Kanye at the Martin Margiela fashion show in January. (AP Photo/Zacharie Scheurer)

Wayne specifically refers to a 1983 report by Guilford College psychology professor Richard Zweigenhaft that finds “one of the benefits of having an unusual name for women could be a greater likelihood of creativity.” He points to another interesting finding in Zweigenhaft’s study: “Female college students with unusual names scored higher on 17 of 18 traits on the California Psychological Inventory, in areas such as ‘Psychological Mindedness’ and ‘Self-Acceptance’”—which may explain Wallis’ admirable self-possession at such a young age.

Non-celebrity parents are slowly embracing the unusual name trend. CNN reported “Sookie” (as in HBO’s True Blood heroine “Sookie Stackhouse”) and “Eithne”
among the Top 10 baby girl names searched on in 2012. Meanwhile “Brooklyn” (also the name of Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham’s eldest son) broke the top 30 on

But in spite of the growing trend toward outlier names, many African Americans still experience disadvantages associated with having so-called “black names”—
which is likely what the anonymous Oscar voter was getting at with his rude remark about Quvenzhané’s name. Endless studies show blacks with names that don’t sound stereotypically white “have a worse life outcome than a woman named Molly or a man named Jake,” as bestselling book Freakonomics reported. However, the reasons for this phenomenon have less to do with the name than economic circumstances, which remain dire for millions of African Americans.

The neighborhood you live in and your parents’ education level, are among the factors that determine future success more reliably than a name. Black unemployment was last reported at 13.8 percent — almost double that of the national unemployment rate — while the wealth gap between whites and blacks has grown alarmingly wide according to a recent Brandeis University study.

Clearly, having a Barack in the highest political office in America, an Oprah among the wealthiest people in the world, and a list of global stars that includes a Kanye, isn’t enough to flip centuries of discriminatory policy and racist practices directed against blacks. That said, unusual names are not a “hole,” but a platform that can be leveraged to unforgettable success. We have no clue what that Oscar voter’s name is as he opted for anonymity, but while this grown man was dissing Wallis, the nine-year-old was making history—and isn’t that what making a name for yourself is really about?

Any unusual names that you particularly like? Please share in the comments.

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the novel Powder Necklace and founder of the blog People Who Write. Follow her on Twitter @nanaekua.

What’s Up With White People And Nicknames?

March 1st, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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nickname feat

My father’s name is Edward. And if you should meet him, you’re to call him Edward. Not Eddie. Not Ed. Edward. He’s very particular about his name. Growing up his parents and family members referred to him by his middle name; but by the time he got to college and had an opportunity to “reinvent” himself, he insisted that he was no longer to be called DeWayne. He helped his family adjust to this change by simply refusing to answer them until they called him Edward. And it worked…for his family.

As a child, when my parents started allowing me and my sister to answer the phone, people who clearly didn’t know my dad would call, trying to perpetrate as his old college chums. This happens to everyone but we knew these people didn’t know my dad because they would say things like, “Is Ed there?”May I speak to Ed, please?”  No you may not because there’s no Ed here. Most of the time we’d correct them, “Do you mean Edward?” People were often taken aback by the fact those close to him, his family members, referred to him as Edward. One time when someone called with the “Ed talk,” I gave the caller my typical, “Do you mean Edward?” response, and he said smugly, “Yeah, same thing.” Uhh, no it’s really not.  I told him that no Ed lived there and hung up.

But this, I’ve noticed is a thing with white people. Years later as an intern I was assigned the task of making a series of phone calls. And sure enough as my boss was telling me what to say and how to say it, she said “And if you notice that they have a name like William or Richard, you can say Will or Bill so you sound like someone they know.” I liked my boss but I couldn’t do that. Years living under my father’s roof had taught me that everyone doesn’t appreciate being called a nickname they never gave you permission to use.

I’ll never forget the time I saw President Obama called “Barry” in the newspaper. What the hell?! The man’s name is Barack. It’s a strong, African name yet this nationally recognized publication was whitewashing it, calling him Barry. For what?! When I expressed my disgust about the nickname, someone less ignorant told me that he’d been given that nickname very early in his life. Oh.

But he, like my father, decided to go by his formal name once he came back from college, feeling like he needed to connect to something bigger than himself. The name connects him to a history, whether he decides to run down his family tree or not. It demands respect. So yeah, I revert back to my original perturbance about the use of Barry. Why the publication would refer to the president by his first name, I don’t know; but if you must, call him Barack.

The latest person to undergo the nickname treatment is 9 year old Quvenzhané Wallis. During the Oscars’ red carpet, Ryan Seacrest announced that he and his E! coworkers had decided to call Quvenzhané “Little Q.” Oh ok. Did you ask Quvenzhané if she was cool with that? She’s a very outspoken little girl, I’m sure she would have been able to tell you if she approved or not.

And that’s the problem with these despicable nicknames, rarely is permission requested. They’re not given because the person has gotten to know the other and feel a pet name more appropriately suits his or her personality. The names are given because the person’s formal name, the names the parents decided upon, most times, before they were birthed into the world are “too hard to say.” Which is really a nice way of saying too “non-white” to be bothered with.  I don’t recall anybody coming up with a nickname for Arnold Schwarzenegger. We just learned to say his name. And it’s no more difficult than Quvenzhané. It’s just more European. Really, this nickname thing is just lazy and further perpetuates the “ignorant” American stereotype. We know the least about other countries and cultures because it’s hard to learn about other countries when you’re determined to call Ting Feng “Lisa.” If you won’t even attempt to pronounce her name, why would she feel comfortable sharing her culture with you? Americans just don’t care. When white folks hear those foreign sounds and their brain just shuts down temporarily and only reboots as it searches for a more appropriate, more westernized moniker. It’s not cool. So, white people, black people with white friends, or black people who’ve adopted the habit of giving out unapproved nicknames. Cut it out. These nicknames are more than just annoying they represent a lazy, insensitive culture and we have to do better.

*Update* The Onion Apologizes For Calling Quvenzhane Wallis The C-Word On Twitter

February 25th, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: AP Images

Source: AP Images

There are some things that humor just doesn’t cover. Hopefully, the people behind satirical publication The Onion realized this yesterday evening. During the airing of last night’s 85th Oscar celebration, The Onion called 9 year old Quvenzhane Wallis one of the most derogatory terms associated with women.

We can’t even type it on the site, so I’ll allow you to read it for yourself:

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

The tweet was deleted shortly after. But with the internet, once you press send, it’s out there forever.

Now, we all understand satire. And I’m sure The Onion thought this might be a cute way to say something so outrageous and so untrue that people would just have to love it. But this is completely disrespectful and utterly unacceptable. First, children should just be left out of these types of vulgar jokes one because this word is too charged, too painful, too disgusting and offensive to be used in any type of cheap joke. Furthermore, should 9 year old Quvenzhane stumble upon this little “joke” on the internet, is she even old enough to process it yet?

Usually, I appreciate The Onion’s humor but they’ve gone too far with this one. And hopefully, they’ll issue a sincere, well thought out apology to that effect.

The Wire and Treme actor Wendell Pierce had this to say about the offense:

“Identify the writer. Let him defend that abhorrent verbal attack of a child. You call it humor I call it horrendous.”

Pretty much.

The sickest part of this whole incident is that The Onion’s use of this sexually suggestive word further sexualizes the image of black women, except this time taking it a step further in applying it to a child who likely hasn’t even hit puberty yet. I’m sure there will be plenty of people to argue that this “joke” has nothing to do with race. I’ll argue that maybe that wasn’t the conscious intent behind it; but what I will say is there is too much history of black women being viewed as nothing but sexual objects to not question the motives behind this despicable tweet.

Prison Culture, an organization dedicated to eradicating youth incarceration, appropriately and accurately summed up the bigger issue behind The Onion’s tweet.

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

This is bigger than a joke. The social and historical implications behind this tweet, whether they were intended or not, are hurtful to the psyche. The sentiment represented in that tweet show up in other areas in the lives of black women. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.

For now, what’s done is done. In addition to the sincere apology I hope The Onion releases, I also pray that Quvenzhane doesn’t happen to stumble upon this news and her parents don’t have to endure the daunting task of explaining satire, bad humor and what the c-word means to their 9 year old daughter.


This morning on their Facebook page, The Onion apologized for the offensive Tweet.


Source; Facebook

Source; Facebook


“I Don’t Vote For Anyone’s Name I Can’t Pronounce”: Anonymous Oscar Voter Unleashes About Quvenzhane Wallis

February 24th, 2013 - By Drenna Armstrong
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Theo Wargo/Getty Images for IFP

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for IFP


As we know, the Oscars are tonight and 9 year old Quvenzhane Wallis is nominated for Best Actress in her role as Hushpuppy in Beats of the Southern Wild. She is the youngest nominee in the category and regardless if she wins or not, Quvenzhane has certainly been the belle of the ball to this point.

But, here we go. Someone is finally showing their cards.

Well, sort of.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with an anonymous Oscar voter who gave a very honest opinion on just about every category but was particularly blunt when it came to categories regarding actual talent. But when he got to the Best Actress role, instead of being professional in regards to his opinion of Wallis’ performance, he began by taken the low road:

“…I also don’t vote for anyone whose name I can’t pronounce. Quvez—? Quzen—? Quyzenay? Her parents really put her in a hole by giving her that name — Alphabet Wallis. The truth is, it’s a very sweet but immature performance from a 9-year-old. I’ve directed children. They probably did a thousand takes and put the best ones together.”

Now, many people have made fun of Wallis’ first name and even those who haven’t have had a hard time pronouncing it. However, that has not stopped people from being objective – and respectful – when it comes to her work.  This anonymous voter and director, though honest, sounds like he’s been stuck in his ways for many years and could possibly miss out on rewarding a young lady who has potential to be a megastar.

Here’s the even bigger question: Do you think he’s the only one who matters in the voting process who feels this way?  Much like we talk about everyday people – black people, in particular – who have unique names and may be weeded out when it comes to job searches, could Wallis be treated the same way?

What do you think about this?

Saluting the Stars: Oprah To Be Honored At Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon

February 21st, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Oprah on the red carpet for the "Life Is But a Dream" premiere. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Oprah on the red carpet for the “Life Is But a Dream” premiere. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Every year Essence magazine honors some of Hollywood’s most influential African-American women in television and film. The sixth annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon will take place today as part of Oscar Week.

According to Essence,  Oprah Winfrey will be honored  with the Power Award; Alfre Woodard will be given the Vanguard Award; Gabrielle Union will receive the Fierce and Fearless Award; and Mara Brock-Akil will be celebrated with the Visionary Award. Newcomer and 2013 Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis will also be honored with the Breakthrough Performance Award during the star-studded lunheon.

This year, Essence has partnered with Lincoln, making the 2013 MKZ the official vehicle for the event. Writer, producer and creator Mara Brock Akil and James Bond ‘s latest “Bond Girl,” Naomie Harris, will arrive to the event in the MKZ.

Akil’s company, Happy Camper Productions, partnered with Kelsey Grammer ‘s Gramnet Productions and CBS Paramount to create the groundbreaking series Girlfriends. In 2012, she produced Sparkle and is now preparing to debut her new show Being Mary Jane starring Gabrielle Union.

Lincoln will present Harris, who starred in the last Bond installment, Skyfall, with the Lincoln Shining Star Award. Harris will star in the upcoming Nelson Mandela biopic, Long Walk to Freedom opposite Idris Elba .

Is Quvenzhane Wallis Too Young For An Academy Award?

February 13th, 2013 - By madamenoire
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From The Grio

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Beasts of the Southern Wild” star Quvenzhane Wallis is an actress of talent, poise and maturity well beyond her years.

She was only 5 years old when she auditioned and 6 when she played the part of Hushpuppy, a little girl of fierce strength and resourcefulness living with her daddy in a squalid slab of Louisiana swampland known as The Bathtub. She was just a regular kid from nearby Houma, La. — she’d never even acted before, and actually pretended to be a year older than she was to be considered.

Now, at only 9, Quvenzhane (Kuh-VAHN-zuh-nay) is the youngest-ever actress nominee at the Academy Awards. Altogether, “Beasts” has four nominations at the Feb. 24 ceremony, including best picture.

While her presence is undeniable, Quvenzhane’s nomination raises the question: How young is too young to compete for an Oscar, the film industry’s highest honor, which has eluded performers with decades more experience and acclaim? Is a child really capable of acting, with craft, or do these performances reflect uncanny instinct?

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On Her Way: Quvenzhane Wallis To Visit White House Tomorrow

February 12th, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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Theo Wargo/Getty Images for IFP

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for IFP

The honors keep rolling in for little Quvenzhane Wallis. Tomorrow, the 9-year old, Oscar nominated actress will attend an interactive Black History Month workshop at the White House. Among the attendees are the first lady, Michelle Obama, the cast and crew of Beasts of the Southern Wild and 80 middle and high school students from Louisiana and Washington D.C.

Members of the Beasts of the Southern Wild family will discuss their experiences making the film and how the inspirational messages in the movie can be applied to their everyday lives.

We can dig it!

In addition to visiting the White House Wallis will also attend Essence’s Women In Hollywood luncheon before the Oscars are awarded on February 24.

Quvenzhané Wallis Talks With TIME About Working On “Beasts,” And Why She Was And Wasn’t Surprised By Her Oscar Nomination

February 8th, 2013 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Paola Kudacki for TIME

Paola Kudacki for TIME

As part of their annual tribute to Oscar-nominated actors and actresses and the performances that got them such a major accolade, TIME took portraits and video footage of 11 of the nominees being themselves–not their popular characters. In between seasoned actors and legends is Quvenzhané Wallis, the youngest best actress nominee ever. With her curly hair in a halo around her head and a bowtie on, the 9-year-old sat down to discuss her time working on Beasts of the Southern Wild, helping to pick her co-star, Dwight Henry (who would go on to play her father), probably because he brought her some of his famous bakery sweets, dealing with mosquitoes and more. Outside of the camera, Wallis was asked how she felt about her nomination, and in response, she says, “I wasn’t surprised on the outside, but I was on the inside.” We get it girl, always play it cool for the fans, but I’m sure she went bananas when she had a moment to herself. Check out the indelibly cute star and let us know below what you thought of her interview. Enjoy!

Already A Winner: Quvenzhané Wallis Does Entertainment Weekly And Talks Being A Triple Threat

January 25th, 2013 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Suit and tie swag! 2013 is the year of Quvenzhané Wallis, the youngest Oscar nominee ever (at just a wee nine years old), and to kick off the Oscar race right, the star of Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of three actors to get a cover panel in the magazine’s new Oscar issue. She’s in good company, smiling amongst legendary actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and new “It” girls like Jessica Chastain. Wallis was on her cover panel wearing a suit and tie, and inside the magazine she looked absolutely adorable in a floor-length halter gown and top hat. Too cute for school.

Wallis also had the chance to sit down with Ann Curry (yes Ann is still making moves, no need to shed any more tears for her) on the news program Rock Center to discuss her favorite music, how she felt when she got the call that she would be nominated for an Academy Award , as well as her future. The cutest part of the interview is definitely at the end when Wallis talks about her love for Demi Lovato, Beyoncé, and Justin Bieber and sings “Boyfriend” for Curry. Because Wallis’ singing skills wound up being pretty strong for a nine-year-old, Curry told her that she is a triple threat. And when asking if Wallis knew what that meant, she replied, “That means you do three things and try to do it at once. Like a 3-in-1 shampoo. Yup, I’m a 3-in-1. Triple threat!”

If you can’t get enough of this cutie, pick up the Oscar issue of Entertainment Weekly which is on stands now, and feel free to check out her full interview with Ann Curry and Wallis’ Beasts of the Southern Wild co-star, Dwight Henry down below.


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“Beast It!”: A Little Film’s Big Success Teaches Us About Pursuing Our Own Dreams

January 17th, 2013 - By C. Cleveland
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Rex Features via AP Images

Rex Features via AP Images

This year’s Oscar nominations feature a diverse showing of nominees compared to the whitewash of years past. One of the most interesting stories of the award season is a small film’s journey to becoming the most unlikely of Oscar juggernauts. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” grabbed four Oscar nods – including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress for Quvenzhané Wallis.

The indie film’s micro budget wasn’t the only thing that made its success at film festivals and the industry’s top award show a pleasant surprise. A collective of artists and filmmakers produced and built its sets by hand with found artifacts around the Louisiana coastline. The film’s stars, including Wallis, who was six years old at the time of shooting, are all first-time actors.

For first-time feature filmmaker Benh Zeitlin, Beasts is a passion project that paid off big time.

The Problem With Pursuing Profits

Americans’ devotion to capitalism has allowed them to buy into the belief that success means making money. Many start projects with the sole motivation of generating profits. But, research shows this approach is a mistake.

In his popular TED talk, “The puzzle of motivation,” career analyst Dan Pink presents evidence that pursuing monetary rewards dulls thinking and blocks creativity. Monetary rewards work best for straightforward problems that require a narrow focus. But today’s business world, where most problems require creative thinking, demands a different type of motivation.

“The new operating system of our business revolves around three elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose,” Pink says. “Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”

Changing Your View of Success

Somewhere along the way we changed the definition of success. We associate it with larges amounts of wealth or a high level of fame. In reality, success is simply accomplishing what you set out to do.

Zeitlin set out to explore how the old folk tales and myths he grew up reading intersected with modern life. He tells the New York Times that his goal in making Beasts was to capture emotional facts that hurricane damage alone doesn’t convey. “What is the feeling of going through this loss of a place or of a parent or of a culture?” he asked. “How does that feel, and how do you respond emotionally to survive that?”

The result was a haunting film that blurs the line between fantasy and reality. It is different from anything else in the theaters. Imagine how his final product would have looked if he set out to make commercial film about land loss following a hurricane.

Success is a Side Effect of Creativity

The uniqueness of Beasts has critics heralding it as the best picture to come out of the film festival circuit in decades, and President Obama dubbing it his favorite film of 2012.

This supports Dan Pink’s theory that if you remove money as the incentive, you give your brain permission to think outside the box. Relieving yourself of the pressure to be profitable gives you the freedom to create unique solutions that grab attention, and generate income.

That’s not to say you should ignore monetary issues like budgeting constraints. Businesses survive off making more than they spend. The lesson here is that it is a mistake to make money your sole motivator. Working toward something bigger than monetary gains makes it much easier to be successful.

C. Cleveland is a freelance writer and content strategist in New York City, perfecting living the fierce life at The Red Read. She is at your service on Twitter (@CleveInTheCity) and Facebook (/MyReadIsRed).