Amandla Stenberg: Meet The Quadruple Threat Who Creates Perception-Changing Art

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Back in October of 1998, when Amandla Stenberg was born, her African-American mother and Danish father must’ve known that their baby girl was destined for big things. They named her Amandla, a Zulu word for power. Amandla started modeling when she was four years old, and as a child, she appeared in several commercials.

In 2010, she was cast as the young version of Zoe Saldana’s character, Cataleya Restrepo, in the thriller Columbiana. Next, she filmed the Hallmark Channel movie A Taste of Romance. In April 2011, Amandla joined the cast of The Hunger Games, as Rue, the young tribute from District 11 who forms an alliance with Katniss. The film was a blockbuster success, and Amandla was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.  She and Jennifer Lawrence won a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Chemistry.

Photo: Lionsgate Films
Photo: Lionsgate Films

Amandla’s critically-acclaimed work on The Hunger Games lead to other roles, including an appearance in the 2013 short film Mercy and a guest-starring role on four episodes of the FOX series Sleepy Hollow. In 2014, she voiced the roles of Bia, Blu and Jewel’s younger daughter, in Rio 2, and in 2015, she joined the cast of the NBC sitcom Mr. Robinson, as Halle Foster. In 2016, Amandla starred as Sarah in the independent movie As You Are, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

This multitalented teen also plays the violin, drums, and guitar. She started playing classical violin in third grade, but quit in sixth grade. She told the AU Review, “I was tired of the rigid structure. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I started playing again, but this time by learning how to improvise and find my personal style. Through Honeywater, my musical voice has developed so much more.” Honeywater, a folk/rock band featuring Amandla and singer/songwriter Zander Hawley, formed in 2013. The duo began performing around Los Angeles, and released their first EP in August, 2015.

Amanda Stenberg Violin

Amandla revealed yet another creative outlet in 2015–writing. She co-authored the Stranger Comics series Niobe: She Is Life with Sebastian Jones. The series follows Niobe, a half elf, half human warrior, on her journey to save the world. “I think it’s the first comic book that has a black female writer and a black female illustrator and a black female lead, so it’s really exciting,” Amandla told People Magazine.

When she’s not in class or working, the seventeen year old often uses social media to speak out about issues that matter to her, including cultural appropriation. In 2015, she shared a YouTube video on the subject that she made for a school project and it went viral, attracting lots of media attention. In the future, Amandla hopes to study filmmaking, and work firsthand at making Hollywood more diverse.

Read more about Amandla’s social activism here.