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Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss: Winnovating Dresses

Posted by on 11:59 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss: Winnovating Dresses

I think there is one phrase that is universal to womankind prior to any sort of significant event: “I have nothing to wear.”   As it happens, that is exactly the phrase that launched a website that we discussed as a prime example of winnovating when we launched this site. Rent the Runway began in 2009, when Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss were at Harvard. Jenn Hyman’s sister was going to a wedding, and had nothing to wear. So wouldn’t it be fab if she had a magical fairy godmother whose closet was filled with in-season, on-trend designer duds?   If you’re unfamiliar with the website, renttherunway.com allows you to rent a dress, or outfit for 4 or 8 days at a time. The rental price includes shipping straight to your doorstep, and a prepaid return envelope. Rent the Runway has partnerships with over 200 designers, so there are price points from $30, all the way up to $800. It’s a lifesaver for those of us who find ourselves with an invite to a black tie event with only our high school prom dresses in our closets (if that is still a viable option for you, I envy your metabolism, and timeless style choice while in the throes of hormonal bad choices).   While this is less… shall we say, noble of a cause than we normally feature here on Winnovating, Rent the Runway’s founders saw a need, and created an impressive brand. The service now employees nearly 300 people, one sixth of which are engineers. They dry clean over 1,500 dresses per hour. Hyman and Fleiss have been featured on ‘most influential’ and ‘top [insert number here]’ lists from Inc. to Mic to Forbes. The women have built a brand with 5 million users, renting $300 million worth of product. While it is still searching for profitability, its impact is still significant. Two women can have an idea for something to make us all feel pretty and well dressed, and make it...

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Gabi Gregg: Winnovating Swimwear

Posted by on 3:38 pm in Social Justice | 0 comments

Gabi Gregg: Winnovating Swimwear

  Summer is upon us! For those who aren’t in Denver (like myself) and therefore haven’t been experiencing torrential downpours and hail: it’s time for fun in the sun! With the negative body images seen throughout magazines, malls, and our minds, it can be easy for many of us to shy away from sporting swimwear in public. And especially for ladies with more to love on their bodies: even finding swimwear to sport can be challenging in most stores. Enter: Gabi Gregg. Blogger, swimwear designer, plus-size fashion genius, internet celebrity in the body-positive community. Gregg, a brand consultant and writer from Chicago, got her online start as a fatshion blogger in 2008. In 2012, she and some fellow curvy girls posted photos wearing two-piece swimwear (later dubbed “fatkinis”) on XOJane.com. After garnering extensive reactions and media attention, Gregg began collaborating with brands and designers to advocate and create better options for plus-size women. One of Gregg’s best-selling collaborations came from Swimsuits For All: an online store serving women size 8 and up. Since her first launch with the site in 2013, her designs have consistently sold out. Her bold stripes, florals, and sexy styles are popular and gorgeous. Not only does this give visibility and access to women who may not fit within standard sizing, but it brings flair to the entire community. Thanks to Gregg and her fellow activists, the assumption that all people above a size 12 should don nothing but baggy t-shirts and sweatpants will soon be something of the past. Gregg has also collaborated with Wet Seal, Target, and other brands. She played a major role in Target’s recent reformation of their plus-size department. I’ve seen it in stores, and the new line (AVA + VIV) is nothing short of fabulous. Gregg – both in her personal style and in her collaborations – does not believe that plus-size women can only wear certain patterns or colors. Everything about Gregg and what she creates is bold, often bright, and confident. Gregg, through her advocacy, is an inspiration and a muse to women – and I would dare say to society as a whole. While there is still certainly work to be done surrounding body image and positivity, some faith has definitely been restored in the swimsuit industry. In the spirit of Gregg’s work, remember that there are two vital steps to achieving a true bikini body. 1) Get a bikini. 2) Put it on your body. Remember to celebrate yourself and the women around you this summer, and always! Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (she is a must-follow), and at her website....

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Ayah Bdeir: Winnovating Legos

Posted by on 6:11 pm in Arts, Technology | 0 comments

Ayah Bdeir: Winnovating Legos

When I was a child, there was one thing that you could always count on my Christmas and birthday wish list every year: Legos. I remember spending hours with our big box of Legos creating new homes, cars, instruments, and other out-worldly creations. While I loved my Legos, they were limited in what they could do. They couldn’t light up, move, or make any sounds. Enter Ayah Bdeir. She’s created a Lego for the 21st century combining construction with electronics: littleBits. In place of the Lego building block grooves, littleBits uses magnets. Each littleBits component snaps together to form a circuit board. What you build is limited by only one thing: your imagination. What I love about her innovation is that not only does it help encourage and foster a love of STEM in children, but her innovation is actually helping others innovate. Ayah envisions littleBits as a tool for prototyping. Have an idea for a small robotic but don’t have any engineering experience? Littlebits to the rescue! Who is Ayah Bdeir? She’s an engineer AND an interactive artist who started programming when she was only 12. That’s 1-2. In addition to holding multiple degrees (sociology & computer engineering), founding a game-changing company, and lecturing on design and engineering to university students, she’s also giving back.  In her spare time (i.e. the time that most of us use to sleep), Ayah cofounded Beirut’s first non-profit media lab for experimental arts, architecture and technology, Karaj, with the goal of catalyzing a creative technology community in Beirut. Does Ayah inspire you like she inspires me? You can read more about how Ayah works on lifehacker and continue getting inspired by watching Ayah’s TED talk. Afterwards, it’s time to find some littleBits and start creating your own...

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Amy Hunter: Winnovating St. Louis Racial Justice

Posted by on 7:54 pm in Social Justice | 0 comments

Amy Hunter: Winnovating St. Louis Racial Justice

Early in August 2014, I was sitting in an airport, exhausted after an eight hour plane trip from Spain to the United States. I still had to catch my final flight from Atlanta to New Orleans before I was done traveling. Feeling anti-social and jet-lagged, I slumped into a chair at my gate, pulled out my phone, and began scrolling through Facebook to pass the time. Most of it was mundane status updates as usual, but then I got to a post that made me pause. Someone from my hometown outside of Saint Louis had shared a news station’s photo of a burning Quik Trip. I frowned, clicked the picture, and scrolled through the comments. People were spewing hate at the ‘animals’ who were rioting outside Saint Louis. Wait. Riots? I switched out of Facebook and did a quick Google search. Soon, I was horrified as I realized what had been going on while I had been traveling — a teenager named Michael Brown had been shot by a police officer in Ferguson, barely twenty minutes from my hometown, and the people of Saint Louis were voicing their rage. I had never wanted to be back home in Saint Louis more — but even if I had been back, I had no idea what I would do. I felt helpless, like so many others did. Luckily, community members passionate about making positive change stepped up to the challenge. Amy Hunter was one of those people. Amy, the Director of Racial Justice for the St. Louis YWCA, was already working to combat racism as part of her day to day job. But she was also on the streets protesting with the other people determined to see an end to police brutality, posting constant updates about what she saw on Facebook so that the people unable to be there could read firsthand accounts of what was happening. Her knowledge and experience led to an article on Essence.com and a TEDxGatewayArch speech. She is a bright, energetic, and funny woman who deserves more recognition than she’s gotten — and who took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. Responses have been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.     LW: Tell me about your role/involvement with the Ferguson protests. AH: My role is the Director of Racial Justice for the YWCA in St. Louis, Missouri. The mission for the YWCA is to eliminate racism and empower women. I am known as the mother that gave “the talk” to my 12 year old son about how to handle police when stopped or detained. For many, it was the seminal moment that linked women, mothers together to understand the violence that was occurring for some of our children but not all of them. My role on the front lines was as an elder, supporter, translator between generations, a translator between the protestors and the police. How did this involvement begin? I went to a memorial held for Michael Brown and then the protests that followed. My involvement with social justice began in corporate America where I could see unjust policies and practices in hiring, firing and promotions. The events of Ferguson were a microcosm for the racial and economic injustices within institutions. What surprised you most about the efforts in Ferguson? What surprised me the most...

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Octavia Butler: Winnovating Science Fiction

Posted by on 10:24 pm in Science, STEM, Writers | 0 comments

Octavia Butler: Winnovating Science Fiction

I’ve always been a nerd. Growing up I consumed all kinds of books, but I always had a shy interest in fantasy, sci fi and dystopia novels and stories, even though most of my other interests were in arts and social justice. While it may be easy for me to admit to my nerdhood now, when I was growing up, it was hard for me to claim. I often found that so many of the spaces that were considered ‘nerdy’ were usually mostly or exclusively white, and I couldn’t help but notice that the field was dominated by Eurocentric and male narratives. As much as I enjoyed the stories I read, I found I couldn’t really connect to them in alot of ways and found myself wishing for science fiction rooted in a more familiar voice. When I graduated college, I join a bookclub known as Wildseeds: The New Orleans Octavia Butler Emergent Strategy Collective who focused on reading and discussing text by the late science fiction and Afrofuturist author Octavia Butler (according to adrienne maree brown, “Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Rather than laying out big strategic plans for our work, many of us have been coming together in community, in authentic relationships, and seeing what emerges from our conversations, visions, and needs.”). Just before officially joining the bookclub, I read my first Octavia Butler book, Kindred, which blew my mind. Kindred is a bestselling novel of Butlers’ that was first published in 1979 (though Butler has been quoted as saying she began writing around the age of 12). The novel follow a Black woman writer named Dana who finds herself time traveling between her 1976 California life with her white husband Kevin back to a pre-Civil War Maryland plantation. Throughout the story, a complex narrative emerges where Dana struggles to survival in the era of slavery while ensuring the existence of her lineage and her own life in the future. After reading this phenomenal text, I dove into more of Butler’s work through the bookclub and found myself wanting to know more about this groundbreaking author whose work continues to challenge the dominant narratives in science fiction. Octavia Butler, sometimes referred to as the ‘grand dame of science fiction’, was born on June 22, 1947 in Pasadena California. She sold her first science fiction stories after taking a class with science fiction legend Harland Ellison (who later mentored her) during her time at the Clarion Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop from 1969-1970. Her first novel Patternmaster was published in 1976, but it was the publication of Kindred (1979) that allowed Butler to support herself as a full time writer (Wildseeds, the novel for which the bookclub I’m in takes its name, was published in 1980 and won the James Tiptree Award). By 1995, Butler had published numerous books and short stories and was awarded the McArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant. In addition to her McArthur Fellowship, she also received two Hugo Awards from the World Science Fiction Society and two Nebula awards from the Science Fiction Writers of America for her undeniable impact of the field of science fiction and on Black nerds like myself. Butler tragically died early at the age of 58 after a fall near her home in Lake Forest Washington in 2006. Her...

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Ai-Jen Poo: Winnovating Labor Rights

Posted by on 9:02 pm in Social Justice | 0 comments

Ai-Jen Poo: Winnovating Labor Rights

I am writing this piece on March 9th. There are twenty-seven countries (the United States is not one of them) around the world that are observing today as a national holiday. A holiday that was inspired over 100 years ago when over 15,000 women marched through New York City in 1908 demanding shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights. This holiday is International Women’s Day, a moment in which we celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. There is a lot to celebrate and there will be many an infographic letting us know just how far we’ve come. In the United States, women’s labor force participation is up by over 50%. There’s a litany of other statistics about women’s increased presence in boardrooms, in politics, and in higher education. What we tend to not think about on International Women’s Day are the millions of women around the world whose labor is often unrecognized and unprotected, even though they play a vital role in allowing women to achieve progress. These women are the estimated 52 million domestic workers around the world. Forty-five percent have no entitlement to weekly rest periods or paid annual leave, and only ten percent are covered by the general labor legislation that protects other workers. Why is caring for our most precious assets so under valued? This week’s Winnovator, Ai-jen Poo, came across these injustices early in her career as a labor organizer for immigrant women workers in New York City. In response, she co-founded  Domestic Workers United (DWU) in 2000, a New York city-wide, multi-racial organization of domestic workers. Ten years later, DWU achieved ground-breaking legislation, the passage of the nation’s first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which extends basic labor protections to over 200,000 domestic workers in New York state. People, this is a HUGE deal! Imagine trying to organize a group of workers that speak an abundance of different languages, work alone and in geographically scattered locations,  whose hours are long and varied, receive meager wages, and have no knowledge of their labor rights. This is extremely difficult to do and takes a lot of tenacity and hard work. Ai-jen Poo didn’t limit her sights on New York City, but rather helped to organize the first national meeting of domestic worker organizations in 2007, which resulted in the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). Ai-Jen has been the director of NDWA since 2010 and also helped launch Caring Across Generations, a movement to transform the long term care system in the United States. Ai-jen’s creativity, innovation, and hard work has caught the attention of the world. Not only was Ai-jen  named to TIME’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012, she recently received a coveted MacArthur Genius Grant. As I read, watch, and learn more about Ai-jen – she is not only charismatic and visionary but she is a shining example of a selfless leader. As you watch the video below, or any video with Ai-jen, she is always very careful to recognize the thousands of women who built the domestic workers movement and who are the real heroes for future generations of caregivers to come. Follow Ai-Jen on @aijenpoo and the National Domestic Workers Alliance on @domesticworkers....

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Chien-Shiung Wu: Winnovating Nuclear Physics

Posted by on 11:02 pm in STEM | 0 comments

Chien-Shiung Wu: Winnovating Nuclear Physics

While we usually profile women who are currently making a difference in their communities, today I wanted to do a Throwback Monday of sorts in honor of International Women’s Day yesterday. (I know #throwbackmonday isn’t a thing, but hey, all social media trends have to start somewhere, right?) After all, while we are still fighting for better and more accurate female representation today, it was even worse in the past. The women who came before us deserve representation as well. That’s why today, I’d like to shed some light on Chien-Shiung Wu, a Chinese-American physicist who was born in 1912. While science is often portrayed as a field composed almost entirely of white men, Wu made a name for herself as early as the 1920s. She pursued education from an early age, leaving her home in rural China to attend boarding school when she was only ten years old. In 1934, she received her B.S. in physics from the National Central University in Nanjing and soon became a graduate assistant in physics. This on its own would be commendable for a woman in early twentieth-century China. However, Wu kept pushing the boundaries. In 1936, she decided to move to the United States in order to pursue physics at a higher level than would have been available to her in China. She enrolled at U.C. Berkeley, where she was able to study under Ernest O. Lawrence, who would become a Nobel laureate in 1939. Wu earned her Ph.D. in physics in 1940 and married another Chinese physicist in 1942. After the couple moved to the East Coast, her career truly took off. Wu became the first female instructor in the physics department at Princeton University when she accepted a faculty position there in 1942. In 1944, she moved to Columbia University, where she would remain for decades. The majority of her accomplishments took place while she was employed by Columbia. Most notably, Wu was a researcher for the Manhattan Project, which was the World War II effort to create the first atomic bombs. Wu helped to develop the process of separating uranium metal into isotopes by gaseous diffusion. In fact, when reactors did not work, other researchers contacted Wu for her advice in identifying the problem. Don’t think that her only accomplishments were related to these weapons, however. When Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang, Chinese theoretical physicists, needed assistance with their research on theoretical physics, they turned to Wu for her advice. The experiment that she ran for them proved their hypothesis and was later replicated multiple times. That experiment on beta particle physics contributed to high energy physics. Lee and Yang were recognized with the Nobel Prize for Physics as an award for their efforts in 1957. Wu was not included in the award, but did belatedly receive the first Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978 for her work. If I were to list out all of her accomplishments, this post would never end. Aside from her groundbreaking research in physics (including research on the molecular reasons for sickle-cell disease), she was also the first Chinese-American to be elected into the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, first woman with an honorary doctorate from Princeton University, first female president of the American Physical Society, first living scientist to have an asteroid...

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Kimberly Bryant: Winnovating the Brogrammersphere

Posted by on 3:29 pm in Education, Math, Science, STEM, Technology | 0 comments

Kimberly Bryant: Winnovating the Brogrammersphere

 For Black History Month, Winnovating is highlighting Winnovators in the Black community in the United States and all across the African Diaspora As Black History Month comes to a close, it is important to continue to recognize historical strides that have been made by Black Americans in the U.S. throughout the year. At the same time, it is equally as important to recognize the numerous areas where Black Americans, and specifically Black American women face issues of diversity and access to opportunities. This is especially seen in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields that are so overwhelmingly dominated by (white) men that the term ‘bro-grammer’ came into use instead of programmer. While women made up a quarter of the computing workforce in 2012, African American women held just 3% of all tech jobs. In fact, there are more guys named Dave who graduate with a degree in computer science than there are total women. This is where Kimberly Bryant and her non-profit Black Girls CODE, which Bryant hopes will give women of color access to STEM careers, comes in. Bryant founded the non-profit after seeing her daughter become unmotivated in the sciences from her experience of being a Black girl at a technology camp- where counselors paid more attention to the boys, and weren’t mentoring her and the handful of other girls as intently. Bryant knew her daughter was not having an isolated experience, that there were not as many women, and specifically women of color, in tech jobs because their self-confidence is squandered so early on. She decided then that she had to create her own, more inclusive and validating tech experience for girls like her daughter. Black Girls CODE is based in San Francisco and was founded in 2011. It provides free and low-cost workshops in programing, robotics, web design and mobile app development to girls as young as 7 years old. In her own words, Bryant describes the organization and her motivations for creating it : “When I was first introduced to computer programming as a freshman in Electrical Engineering, Fortran and Pascal were the popular languages for newbies in computing and the Apple Macintosh was the new kid on the block. I remember being excited by the prospects, and looked forward to embarking on a rich and rewarding career after college. But I also recall, as I pursued my studies, feeling culturally isolated: few of my classmates looked like me. While we shared similar aspirations and many good times, there’s much to be said for making any challenging journey with people of the same cultural background. Much has changed since my college days, but there’s still a dearth of African-American women in science, technology, engineering and math professions, an absence that cannot be explained by, say, a lack of interest in these fields. Lack of access and lack of exposure to STEM topics are the likelier culprits. By launching Black Girls CODE, I hope to provide  young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. That, really, is the Black Girls CODE mission:  to introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures. Imagine the impact that these curious, creative minds could have on the world with the guidance and encouragement others take for granted....

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Misty Copeland: Winnovating Diversity in Ballet

Posted by on 9:00 pm in Arts | 0 comments

Misty Copeland: Winnovating Diversity in Ballet

 For Black History Month, Winnovating is highlighting Winnovators in the Black community in the United States and all across the African Diaspora For a long time, not many people outside of the ballet world had ever heard of Misty Copeland. Then, this amazing Under Armour commercial came out: And for good reason, it was all anyone could talk about. You may have seen the commercial like everyone else (and, if not, now you have been enlightened), but the video doesn’t necessarily capture all of the reasons why Misty Copeland is so special. It mentions that she is a soloist for the American Ballet Theatre, but did you know that she is only the third African-American female soloist? For her entire career, she has also been the only black woman currently with the theater. It wasn’t necessarily an easy road there. Copeland began ballet when she was thirteen years old, when most girls start training as young as three. Ballet is expensive, and Copeland’s parents weren’t able to afford to send her to classes before she turned thirteen. However, once she began, she quickly gained recognition in her home state of California and earned a full scholarship to a San Francisco Ballet summer intensive program. That was followed by the American Ballet Theatre summer intensive, where she was eventually one of six girls to be chosen out of 150 dancers to join the studio company. By 2007, she had been promoted to soloist. But still, she worried about just being the “black ballerina” and not being recognized for the talent she is. Black History Month focuses on the history of black people in the United States for obvious reasons, but it is also a time to recognize black people who are changing the world today. For young black girls in ballet, seeing someone who looks like them in such a prominent role means an incredible amount. Ballet is a predominantly white art, which we are reminded of with each new production. Many of the main roles have only been portrayed by white dancers or were written in order to be portrayed by a slender, pale woman. It can often seem to young black girls that there is no place for them in advanced ballet. Copeland is a living example that that’s not true — black girls can excel at ballet, too. She already has a feel-good story of overcoming the odds and breaking down barriers, but last November, her story got even better. Copeland was cast as Odette/Odile in the Washington Ballet’s production of “Swan Lake,” which is one of the most traditional ballets. Not only that, but her love interest will be portrayed by Brooklyn Mack, a black man. While she has danced in “Swan Lake” before, she has never done so in the U.S. — and there has never been a production with two black leads. Ever. This was Misty’s statement about her casting: “It certainly goes against traditional casting. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to show that African American ballerinas can also conform to the traditional vision for a swan as feminine and sylph-like while also being artistically and physically powerful.” She’s referring to the notion that black women are not often allowed to be seen as simply feminine — we are usually either hyper-sexualized or masculinized. Add that to...

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Quvenzhané Wallis: Winnovating Representation of Black Girls in Media

Posted by on 6:46 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Quvenzhané Wallis: Winnovating Representation of Black Girls in Media

For Black History Month, Winnovating is highlighting Winnovators in the Black community in the United States and all across the African Diaspora Here at Winnovating, we are proud to highlight the innovative accomplishments of women who may not often receive recognition. After brainstorming for a few weeks on whom to profile, my mind kept coming back to one young woman. Despite my usual tendencies to feature women involved in non-profit or grassroots work, I decided to go with a more high-profile woman – who still deserves infinite times more recognition than she has received. If you haven’t already, meet the fabulous Quvenzhané Wallis. Wallis – a small-town Louisianan – is only 11 years old, but has starred in several recent blockbusters. Her list of nominations and awards is never-ending. She makes being an Oscar and Golden Globes-nominated actress look like an easy job. You probably recognize her name or face from her most recent role as the lead in the remake of Annie. Through Wallis’ eyes, the audience of the film is guided through a story of loss, hope, and love. Her sharp wit and intelligence come through into her character throughout the film. At the risk of sounding like a film critic, I’ll say simply that Wallis was amazing in the newest remake of Annie, which was my inspiration for writing about her. I’m all for anything involving Jamie Foxx, but Wallis stole the show and my heart along the way. Insightful and engaging dialogue was sparked upon seeing the film, which I can attribute to the remake of the old story of Orphan Annie, as well as Wallis’ excellent portrayal of the challenges faced by youth in urban America today. Wallis was incredible in Annie, but her other accolades and her make her a Winnovator for other young girls – and perhaps, the youngest we’ve ever had! All of her qualities make her a true role model for girls of all ages, goals, and dreams. Despite all of her accomplishments, Wallis has also faced incredibly racist and sexist backlash at her young age. When she was originally revealed to be the new Annie, Wallis faced racially insensitive attacks on social media, and was event called a ‘cunt’ in a tweet by the Onion during the 2013 Oscars. Even after she successfully played Annie to the delight of millions, especially young Black girls who rarely see themselves represented in the media, Target came under fire for using a young white girl as their model in their ‘Annie’ based clothing ads. The treatment of Wallis in the media and social media by some is appalling considering that, at age nine, she was the youngest nominee for “Best Actress” at the Academy Awards. She is also the first Black child actor, and first person born in the 2000s, to be nominated for an Oscar, and is the youngest person to ever be the face of a luxury brand (she is the face of Armani Junior). She landed her first role at age 5 where she played the starring role of the child prodigy Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild, and she has had roles in independent films, as well as large scale ones such as 12 Years a Slave – and Annie, obviously (just for perspective, at her age, I was playing with Barbie dolls…) Wallis has set the path for all...

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