A Love Letter to Quvenzhané Wallis

Gif of Quvenzhané Wallis flexing in her seat at the Oscars.
The Amazing Quvenzhané Wallis!

give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right. – Warsan Shire

Dear Quvenzhané,

Hi! My name is Moya. I am a big BIG fan of yours! I thought you were such a great actress in Beast of the Southern Wild. I planned to watch the Oscars and even started watching but I really hated the jokes host Seth MacFarlane was making at your expense. You had the Oscar before the show even started in my mind.

He wasn’t nice. Some of the people who have interviewed you and are talking about you have been really disrespectful. You’ve done such a great job telling people how to say your name. It makes me mad that people still can’t get it. People think it’s funny to make fun of Black girls with names like ours. When I was little people would say my name wrong on purpose. Even now, people hear me say my name and think I’m saying something that’s more familiar to them. How folks hear “Gwen” from Moya, I will never understand.

Dog purse

You are great! I love your name! And your puppy purses! How do you find them?! I am so excited that you will be in more movies!

Anyway I just wanted to send you some love! You have so much greatness in store for you!

So much love to you!

Your friend,

Moya Zakia B.

P.S. I thought I’d include some books you might like below and some really cool folks on Tumblr looked up some puppy purses you might want to check out too! I hope you had fun last night!

Thank you to So-Treu, Guyanapeace, Alexcess, Writeswrongs, Fyeahquavenzhanewallis, Afrikkana, and Quixxotica for your Tumblr commentary last night and reminding us that Black girls are in fact girls and should be honored and loved as such. 

To Oscar Host Seth MacFarlane and to the person at The Onion who tweeted that horrible thing and deleted it,

small girl. big city. cliches abound.

83 thoughts on “A Love Letter to Quvenzhané Wallis

    1. Nyoka SO TRUE. As for that jackass Seth , well , he just an ass who made a few jesus my skin is crawling jokes for which he really SHOULD be beaten like a gong , but the ONION??? Ohh, the ONION . Which noone not a limp , feeble whiteboy loser who could not get laid on a DESERT Island after a Nuclear Holocaust ever found that funny ( clue: possibly because it is NOT ) and which feels that a VICIOUS ATTACK on a LITTLE KID is the new normal. Is satire . Well , it’s not . It’s not when you wastes of oxygen do it , it’s not when falsely identified as feminist ” women” commenters do it – and how they even can is beyond me , it’s not when clueless PROVINCIAL arteriosclerotic racist assclown Academy members who vote against her because they hold HER NAME against her ( apparently this cretin never got the Academy members should vote based on PERFORMANCE memo ) , it’s not when reporters apparently too stupid to pronounce Miss Wallis’ name are rude and condescending to her , it’s not ever , not nohow. She was and is talented , confident , and happy, as any NORMAL person would expect her to be and in fact would want their own child to be in similar circumstances , and all the hideous trash out there who think she ought to be APOLOGETIC ( !!! ) can just go eat a bag of dicks . Oh , wait , that is surely what they have been obliged to do at some point which , according to their bitter , twisted and frankly racist point of view , somehow justifies attacking a little girl all over the media landscape . I would call them revolting swine but that would be an unwarranted insult to swine .

    2. I have seriously spent every moment of the day since I heard the news trying, in vain, to hold back tears. When a white girl goes missing for five minutes, there are celebrities in the woods turning over every rock and every news show does a segment on it. Why isn’t society banging at the Onion’s door, Bastille-style, DEMANDING more than some limp apology?
      Let’s call the song exactly what it is — to paraphase a tweet I saw earlier, a grown adult, in the course of their employment (tweeting through their employer’s Twitter account) called a fourth grade girl a “cunt.”

      Damn straight she’s proud of herself. That little girl decided that people, no matter how famous they are, WILL call her by her name. And yes, that baby KNOWS that she is the youngest nominee ever, and one of a (shockingly) number of Black women to ever be nominated for, Best Actress. She commands respect and is full of pride, and excited to be at the Academy Awards. And apparently, she’s a cunt for it.

      On almost every site reporting this story, there are more than a few commenters are taking the opportunity to say “well, she is a little full of herself.” I believe that this is the 21st century way of calling this beautiful young woman “uppity,” but knowing better than actually saying the words. Even if she isn’t your cup of tea, where does a grown person get off debasing this little girl? Funny…when Lindsay Lohan was off running around LA ten years ago, well under 18, no one called her a cunt. When Drew Barrymore was doing lines at the Limelight at pretty much exactly Quvenzhane’s age, no one called her a cunt. But this little girl is a cunt for being proud of herself, and hamming a little for the camera, like most nine year olds would do.

      I cried because she corrects people when they mispronounce, or make fun of, her unique name; I shortened mine, tired of people butchering and/or mocking it. I cried because African-Americans finally had a little mega-star of our own, that we could watch grow up, and love and protect and watch mature into a wonderful female powerhouse. I cried because a grown ass (probably) man thought, even if for a moment, that it was okay to call a nine year old girl clutching a furry puppy purse a cunt.

      Why doesn’t society consider our kids good enough to rally around and protect? Why aren’t more Black celebrities up in arms about this? (Maybe they don’t want to be seen as an “angry Black.” It’s not very US Weekly-friendly, you know.)

      Finally, little Miss Wallis will have to be told about this. There’s no shielding her from it. Her team knows some jerk celebrity journalist will try to be “edgy” and ask her about the incident. Or, a jealous classmate will tease her about it. So, the day after Quvenzhane’ gets to attend the Oscars, and show off her new puppy pure, and feel like a princess, she be told that an adult she’d never met essentially called her worthless. And she’ll understand what it is to be gifted, black, and female in America.

      1. I love you. I love you. I love YOU. You said it, you said it all. I saw your hEART – i SAW YOUR HEART – I SAW YOUR HEART ON THE INTERNEWT, and it was full of beqauty light and love. Thank you, Del.
        God, lift up our daughters in lovely, innocent & rightious pride – and may they forever know self worth. Amen.

  1. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters!?! We had that book on tape when I was little! I second that book recommendation!

    1. She is a brilliant little girl. My daughter thought she was tough, especially when she showed her “guns.” When are we hosting a little brown girls conference in Atlanta? My daughter and her friends would love to participate. Could we invite Ms. Quvenzhane Wallis to talk them?

  2. I loved your post. Beautifully written and I couldn’t agree with you more on what an amazing person this young lady is. I love her puppy purse too.

  3. what did Seth do? i really don’t recall him making fun of her or her name… but i did step away from the tv for a while. the only jokes i remember he made about her dealt with her age and I thought those were flattery.

    1. I know he sexualized her by saying “to give you an idea of how young she is, it’ll be 16 years before she’s too young for Clooney.”

      1. I’m pretty sure he was making a stab at George Clooney with that remark. (He’s known for dating women A LOT younger than him).

  4. Quvenzhané is a lovely name! I would give all children wonderful names if I could. 🙂 And she was so spectacularly wonderful in that movie.
    –mother of three children with interesting names.

  5. I am incredibly proud of her for displaying such grace and power and for knowing and owning her identity and making others take note of how they treat her.

  6. Hi. I’m writing a letter of rage to The Onion and I would like to recommend that as part of their apology, they make a large and public donation to organizations that benefit young women of color. Anyone know/work with some particularly good ones?

  7. Her name is a made up amalgamatiom of both her patents names. How we can assign ethnic pride top a made up name with no meaning, more consonants than vowels, and then get mad because no one can pronounce it? Can we not laugh at ourselves? Her is not African and any African tribe, probably wouldn’t claim it. Lets find something more meaningful to get up in arms about.

    1. It is “made up amalgamatiom of both her patents [sic] names,” so it is meaningful. Who said anything about Africa?

      1. Upon further research, I guess her parents said something about Africa… The second half of her name is supposed Swahili for fairy. 😉

      1. Ummm, it is definitely NOT french. The first part of her name combines her mother and father’s names. The second part is supposedly Swahili for fairy. ‘Fairy’ in French is ‘feé’.

    2. The young lady herself is made up of both her parents, therefore her name does have meaning to the tribe of her family which need not be from Africa or anyplace a stranger knows. A human tongue can wreak so much destruction,hurt and cut people, yet its owner can not make the effort to curl around a word or a name and pronounce it correctly? Lazy, disrespectful of another’s birth right, and in this case, demeaning.

    3. Her “made up” name has more meaning for her because her parents put some thought into it and just didn’t use 1 of a thousand names repeated ad naseum. Most names have more consonants than vowels. No one is mad if it’s not correctly pronounced at first glance, but when it’s enunciated and a person doesn’t even try, that’s annoying. Don’t look at the spelling, listen to what she’s saying, idiots and they’re the adults?! She’s not African, so who cares if an African tribe would claim anything?! Pride comes from within and I pray at the end of the day she can find a piece of pride in this land she was born in.

  8. Hello! My name is Moi. Believe me I understand what it’s like to grow up as a little Black girl with a “different” name.

  9. Regarding the Onion -why is it that women have to be marginalized with ugly names? But to denigrate our beautiful girl children is above the pale. WE WILL NOT TOLERATE IT in our society. All of you beautiful girls and especially beautiful black girls, you do not deserve this treatment and we will come down hard on anyone who abuses you! Stay strong, and ignore stupid, ugly, sexist people.

  10. I appreciate this. I have a different name. Even though it is spelled how it sounds, people insisted on calling me something else. For many years I didn’t bother correcting it. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I stood up for my name. I am proud of her for having that confidence so young. #LoveIt

    1. The name thing can be so dehumanizing. I’m so glad young Ms Wallis is standing up –whether she knows it or not– for all the young girls who aren’t Jessicas or Sarahs. She’s a role model for more than just little girls. As someone with an unusual name I’ve not always been as gracious as she has about the systematic butchering of my name.In fact, I wrote about it a few weeks ago here:

  11. Well, my thoughts:

    Seth could have done MUCH worse. A typical Family Guy or American Dad episode proves that. I think the age dig was more of a crack at Clooney than Zhane. As a member of the nominee pool, she was open for a few jokes and the few at her expense were at least not tasteless. Unlike….

    That Onion tweet was just WRONG. It was wrong for a 9 year old child or a 75 year old woman, and every woman between and beyond. And anyone who thinks that’s satire is purposely playing dumb. My guess is that in someone’s head that word was synonymous with “brat,” and alluded to her having a character opposite the sweet, polite demeanor that we see. It still wasn’t funny. Any adult planning to lampoon a child actor–ANY child actor–needs to remember that, first and foremost, THESE ARE CHILDREN.

    As for the name, it’s definitely a mouthful. But it’s hers, it has meaning in HER world, and as she’s now entering into what looks like a promising acting career, makes her even more unique. Not a name I personally would have come up with, but not a “bad” name and not a name I have to live with. She carries it quite beautifully, and proudly, and as such i will wholeheartedly support her in all her endeavors.

    NOBODY messes with a Louisiana homegirl on my watch!

  12. Yes! Give your daughter difficult names…!! My daughter is marnika, mispronounced her whole childhood, but now, as an young adult artist and LA stylist, she proves as unique as her name!

  13. My Darling Moya, THANK YOU, from the bottom of my little soul and pinky toe for penning such a beautiful letter to little Miss Quvenzhane. What she needed prior to, especially now, and henceforth is a loving community of people, who exuberantly celebrate her name, her beauty, and her greatness. You are truly a beacon of light!

    So much love,


  14. Thank you for writing this. I absolutely loved Quvenzhané’s performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild; she is a truly talented and strong girl.

  15. OMG, I love this letter and everything it means. I have not seen her movie and I didn’t watch the Oscars but as I read this letter to Quvenzhané Wallis I felt for her and related so much. My name is not nearly as cool or “complicated” as some people may think but I’ve had to correct people and get made fun of/laughed at/judged/the whole nine yards for the spelling and pronunciation of my name too. My name is pronounced like the continent Asia, the only difference in spelling is an added “j”. I don’t know why unconventional and non traditional names are such a big deal to people (maybe because their names aren’t as cool sounding or unique). My mom warned me as a kid that people would say my name wrong and some might make fun of it and those things did happen but I have to say, I wouldn’t want my name to be anything else. I hate that there is a stereotype about black people’s (especially women) names being so complicated and hard to spell/pronounce but why is that such an issue?! I think it’s great that people can come up with new, innovative names or just names that already exist but aren’t used often in American culture. Whenever I introduce myself to someone new I get different reactions but as I’ve gotten older I usually get a bunch of follow up questions about it and a compliment. I don’t think people with conventional/traditional names can say the same. You go, Quvenzhané!

  16. It is not imagination. Young Black Girls in North America are media targets because mainstream society are desperate for Young Black Girls to “learn their place” at an early age lest more of them become Quvenzhane Wallis, Sasha Obama, Malia Obama, Willow Smith, Gabrielle Douglas, Venus Williams, Serena Williams–or heaven forbid–First Lady Michelle Obama.

    Sasha and Malia Obama USED to be criticized like grown women until the President stepped to the media and said, “Not MY children, you don’t.” You don’t hear much sniping and complaining about those two very well-behaved girls any more.

    Venus and Serena Williams, if not for their father (who the media HATED for not letting them “get at” his girls), would have been chewed up in the sports media meat grinder. Some of us recall when the girls got booed and called racist names by North Americans when they played doubles or singles overseas.

    Amanda Steinberg became the target of her own Twitter attack by ignorant, illiterates and racists who expressed repulsion at the thought of a Black female scifi hero.

    Gabrielle Douglas heard side commentary from her own teammates about the width of her nose and got called a “flying squirrel.”

    I’ve also seen nasty commentary against Willow Smith for being the privileged child of wealthy, powerful actors in Hollywood.

    Little Black Girls are TARGETED. It is not your/our imagination. Mainstream society wants Little Black Girls to know their place is not first, second, third, or even fourth. They want to do enough psychological damage to convince Little Black Girls that their place is last, that they mean less, that they are worth less. That no one will defend them when White males and/or females of privilege attack.

    Thank God Quvenzhane Wallis has the self-confidence, self-worth, and self-knowledge, the bravery and the class to look grown rich White male idiots of privilege with media power and dominance straight in the face and let them know that SHE KNOWS WHO SHE IS and who she is not. These patriarchal racists–writers at The Onion, writers at SNL, writers at The Academy Awards–attempted their very best to marginalize Wallis with C-Bomb, Little Q, Miss Q, “Annie” and she did not allow them to call her out of her name or maintain any social or cultural power over her. Now that’s a child well-raised.

    By the way, if Hollywood can say Schwartzenegger, then they can say Quvenzhane or continue to reveal themselves as the racist illiterates and social misfits they likely are anyway.

    And I did notice that none of the blue-eyed blonde female child actors–Ashely and Elizabeth Olson, Abigail Breslin, Dakota Fanning–received the level of contempt, loathing, disrespect, and “satire” thrown Quvenzhane’s way. Certainly, Jennifer Lawrence did not. Harvey Weinstein would have fallen upon The Onion like a ton of bricks if she’d been C-Bombed either before or after receiving her Oscar. Lawrence’s magic night and Lawrence herself remained apparently undisturbed by the disrespect shown her fellow nominee.

    I truly wonder whether any of these women recognize their White privilege granted by their White male protectors, but I doubt it. Everyone seems color-blinded by all the “satire.”

    The only two Black females at the Academy Awards with any camera time–First Lady Michelle Obama and Quvenzhane Wallis–received vituperative commentary for daring to show their brown faces and daring to breathe the rare air of that White-dominated world.

    Hollywood and mainstream media have revealed themselves time and again as purveyors of racial hatred and misogyny.

    I love the way not only First Lady Michelle Obama, but also Quvenzhane Wallis refuse to bow down. These two wonderful role models know and understand that their place is wherever they want it to be and the White patriarchy in North America need to get with that program.

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