HOUMA, La. -- It's been a wild ride for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" star Quvenzhane Wallis. The 9-year-old from Houma, also known as Nazie, was nominated for an Oscar on Thursday in the Best Actress category -- the youngest nominee ever in that category.
"It is definitely a natural gift that she has," said Melanie Wallis, the actress' cousin and her principal at Elysian Fields Middle School in Houma, where the 9-year-old goes to school.
She is in Los Angeles this weekend, but Melanie Wallis spoke to the family there by phone this morning, just after the nominations were announced.
"She was just so excited," she said. "Everyone is in a state of disbelief."
Dwight Henry is Wallis' co-star in "Beasts of the Southern Wild.
"I've seen something special from the first time I met Nazie," he said.
Henry spent the morning working at his bakery, the Buttermilk Drop Bakery and Cafe, in New Orleans, but paused as the nominations were announced.
"Everybody around the bakery, we were sitting around the TV waiting on the announcement," he said. "And when the announcement came, I just almost cried when they said Nazie's name because she's almost like a daughter to me."
Wallis herself recently spoke about her "Beasts" character, Hushpuppy, on the CBS program Sunday Morning.
"She doesn't wear any pants and she had puffy hair," she said, as she motioned with her hands to show just how puffy it was.
In the meantime, her family back home is cheering her on.
"She's just an amazing little girl and she's going to go very far," Melanie Wallis said. "We're very proud of her."
Wallis was just 6 years old when she appeared in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and had never before done any professional acting. Her family in Houma is planning a special Oscar watch party because they said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of them.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" also received several nominations, including one for Best Picture. The Oscars will be held on Feb. 24.