Who Is Amandla Stenberg? The 'Hunger Games' Actress Is Basically The Most Impressive 16-Year-Old Ever
She's young, cute, outspoken, and making headlines for feuding with Kylie Jenner after accusing the reality star of appropriating "black features and culture" without addressing real issues that affect African Americans. But how much do you really know about who Amandla Stenberg is other than (maybe) the fact that Jaden Smith was her prom date and that the couple is so DGAF cool that he wore a white skirt while she sported silver braids and a copper gown?
In case you haven't heard, the 16-year-old star of The Hunger Games is kind of a big deal right now because she took on teen behemoth Kylie Jenner and criticized the 17-year-old for wearing cornrows and promoting her wigs, thereby treating black cultural symbols like a costume she can wear and take off, instead of using her celebrity power to draw attention to issues that affect the African-American community — like police brutality and racism.
For some, this may be the first time they've heard of Stenberg. They may be thinking: who is this girl and what took the Powers That Be so long to send her here to save all of mankind? She may be young, but the teen has been grooming herself for stardom since before some of us could ride a bike.
She's been working since age 4
Stenberg started modeling for Disney catalogs when she was in preschool and was soon scouted for work in several television commercials for McDonald's, Walmart, and Build the Dream, according to IMDb.
Her awesome parents named her after the Zulu word for "power"
Stenberg comes from a racially mixed background. Her mother is Karen Brailsford, a spiritual counselor and writer in the entertainment industry, according to LinkedIn. Her father is Danish-born Tom Stenberg, who often raves about his daughter's success on Twitter. Stenberg has been vocal about her love for her parents and even told Essence magazine a few years ago that she credits her mom with helping her achieve her acting dreams and for encouraging her to pursue and win the role of Rue in The Hunger Games. Anyway, these two awesome and loving people thoughtfully gave her a name that means "power" in Zulu.
Her first feature film was Colombiana with Zoe Saldana
Written by famous screenwriter Luc Besson (who helped launch Natalie Portman's career in Léon: The Professional), Colombiana is about a young woman, played by Saldana, who witnesses the murder of her parents and grows up to be an assassin. Stenberg played Saldana's character as a child. Her performance was powerful — and she was just 11 when she filmed it. Plus, she performed many of her own stunts.
She was an incredibly convincing Rue in The Hunger Games
It was never going to be easy to win over fans of The Hunger Games, who were very opinionated when it came to who they thought should be given a coveted role in the movie version of the popular books. Stenberg gave Rue depth, emotion, and intelligence, and in her interviews about the film and her close working relationship with Jennifer Lawrence, she is more mature and eloquent than most actresses twice her age.
She isn't afraid to poke fun at herself
It might be easy to write the 16-year-old off as a very serious actress, but she showed her goofy side when she teamed up with Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka to film a Funny or Die skit called Child Star Psychologist 3 . Get these two in a film together ASAP.
This isn't the firsttime she has spoke out against cultural appropriation
Think back to what you were doing in your high school history class. Me: passing notes and chewing Big Red. Stenberg: creating powerful videos with another classmate about why it's wrong to borrow black culture and use it as a prop without having any intention of speaking about real issues. The title of her video might shed some light on why Jenner's latest hairstyle has made her speak up: "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows."
She has cool friends
Jaden Smith is one of her BFF's — but she also hangs with The Hunger Games' Willow Shields, Lorde, and Shipka.
She supports worthwhile causes
Stenberg is a youth ambassador for No Kid Hungry and supports the Ubuntu Education Fund — proving she is a young woman of both wise words and action.
She has killer fashion instincts
Will she look back in 20 years and regret the clothes she now wears? Nope, no chance.
She's a powerful writer
On the heels of the Jenner scandal, Stenberg took to Twitter to post this essay, in which she eloquently defends her position and elucidates on why she feels there is a gross double standard that exists between the sexual identities of African American and white women.
If Stenberg can accomplish this much at age 16 — and is pushing forward using her talent, creativity, and intelligence (instead of her ability to look fantastic in heavy makeup and tight skirts) imagine what she'll accomplish in 10 years. She's one of the most exciting actresses to emerge in Hollywood and certainly one to keep your eyes on.