On the heels of her husband's State of the Union speech, first lady Michelle Obama rallied supporters around a cause of her own Wednesday -- her love of the Oscar-nominated film "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
"We're glad you're here today to watch what I consider to be one of the most powerful and important movies that has been put out this year," Obama told a group of middle- and high-school students from New Orleans and Washington, D.C., who visited the White House to view the film.
"It's a movie that makes us all think deeply about the people we love in our lives who make us who we are. It shows us the strength of our communities, no matter what they look like," she went on to say. "It shows us that those communities can give us the power to overcome any kind of obstacles. And it also tells a compelling story of poverty and devastation, but also of hope and love in the midst of some great challenges."
But the first lady's admiration of "Beasts" wasn't just about the heartwarming characters in the film -- a little girl named Hushpuppy and her father, Wink, living in the Louisiana bayou during a hurricane -- but about the real-life Cinderella story of the actors who portrayed them.
"I don’t know if you all know the story -- the world knows it -- but Dwight never acted a day in his life. Never. Not one -- no plays, no pageants, no nothing," Obama said of baker-turned-actor, Dwight Henry, who played the role of Wink.
His story, Obama said, serves as an example of the adage "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
"When they asked him to play the role of Wink, he had to think long and hard about it because he didn’t have the experience. But in the end, he decided to take the risk. And now, he is headed to the Oscars. I mean, imagine. That’s what happens in America when you're ready for stuff," she said, later encouraging the students to make sure they, too, are prepared.
"You all have to really be focused on preparing yourselves for the challenges and the opportunities that will lie ahead for all of you. You've got to be prepared."
For the first lady of the United States, that means having a vision and getting up everyday with a determination to achieve it.
"Every day I'm thinking about who I want to be and what I have to do every day; what kind of person I have to be, how honest and truthful and hardworking I have to be to achieve that image," she said.
"Beasts" stars Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis agreed, detailing their rise to the spotlight and the highs and lows they experienced producing the film. Wallis, who was only 5 years old when she auditioned and 6 when she played the role of Hushpuppy, is now the youngest-ever actress nominated for an Academy Award, one of four for the film, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress.
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Ivan Jandl, Age 11: Academy Juvenile Award (Honorary Oscar) (1948)
Keisha Castle-Hughes, Age 13: Best Actress nominee for "Whale Rider" (2003)
[PHOTO: Laura Rauch, AP]
Saoirse Ronan, Age 13: Best Supporting Actress nominee for"Atonement" (2007)
Hailee Steinfeld, Age 14: Best Supporting Actress nominee for "True Grit" (2010)
Jodie Foster, Age 14: Best Supporting Actress nominee for "Taxi Driver" (1976)
Hayley Mills, Age 14: Academy Juvenile Award (Honorary Oscar) (1960)
Patty Duke, Age 16: Best Supporting Actress winner for "The Miracle Worker" (1962)
Jack Wild, Age 16: Best Supporting Actor nominee for "Oliver!" (1968)
River Phoenix, Age 18: Best Supporting Actor nominee for "Running On Empty" (1988)
Leonardo DiCaprio, Age 19: Best Supporting Actor nominee for "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993)
Jennifer Lawrence, Age 20: Best Actress nominee for "Winter's Bone" (2010)
[PHOTO: Matt Sayles, AP]
Timothy Hutton, Age 20: Best Supporting Actor winner for "Ordinary People" (1980)
Isabelle Adjani, Age 20: Best Actress nominee for "The Story of Adele H." (1975)
Keira Knightley, Age 20: Best Actress nominee for "Pride & Prejudice" (2005)
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[PHOTO: Kevork Djansezian, AP]