TODAY   |  February 24, 2013

Youngest Oscar-nominated star could make history

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” star Quvenzhane Wallis, 9, is the youngest person to ever be nominated for the top honor. Lauded for her powerful performance, the young star said she gets her strength from her dad. NBC’s Ann Curry reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a 9-year-old girl is making history at tonight's oscar awards as the youngest ever nominee for best actress . ann curry went to new orleans to talk to the young star about her incredible achievement.

>> okay.

>> all right. this is how do you it.

>> reporter: you probably don't recognize quvenzhane wallis. over a plate of crayfish, she's pure louisiana. are y you are looking at the youngest person ever nominated as best actress and she is 9. quvenzhane was 6 when she played the role of hush puppy , the lead in the critically acclaimed film, "beast of the southern wild." she was only 5 and just beginning to read when she was selected out of 3,500 children who tried out.

>> you have to learn how to feed yourself.

>> reporter: her father is dying, and he is hell bent on teaching hush puppy how to survive on her own.

>> no crying.

>> reporter: how did someone so young turn in such a performance? do you know where you get your strength?

>> my dad.

>> reporter: because he's physically strong or emotionally strong?

>> both. he's always like you better do that. and he sometimes kind of like -- and my mom, because they -- if you put them together it's kind of like me, the hush puppy . because i was nice in the film and that's my momism and was kind of strong in the film, so that's my bad.

>> what does your mom and dad tell you about not letting all that attention change who you are?

>> they tell me don't -- don't think about it. don't. and they just tell me not to. and just do what you are supposed to do.

>> reporter: they give you that look? what's the look. is that from your mom or your bad?

>> both.

>> next customer, please.

>> dwight henry is the man who plays her father. a baker in new orleans for 30 years. like her, he never been in a movie before. before he got the part, she had to approve working with him. quvenzhane, how did you know when you first met mr. henry that he could be the map who plays your father?

>> he brought me sweets.

>> reporter: he brought you sweets from his bakery?

>> um-hum.

>> reporter: boy, it's a long way from being a baker to sitting at the academy awards .