Quvenzhane Wallis, 9, Thanks Her Babysitter at Essence Awards

02/22/2013 at 06:30 PM EST

Oscars: Quvenzhane Wallis Thanks Her Babysitter at Essence Awards
Quvenzhane Wallis
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
We'll have wait and see who Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis will thank if she wins the Oscar on Sunday, but it's clear that she's grateful for one key person on her team: her babysitter.

"I would like to thank everyone who helped me play this part, and everyone who was there for me, and my babysitter who was on set," Wallis, 9, said as she accepted her Breakthrough Performance award at Thursday's Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Toting her signature puppy purse, Wallis wasn't sure if the accessory would also make an appearance on the red carpet at the Oscars.

"Um, my mom knows," she told reporters on the carpet before sitting down for lunch. "You'll have to watch!"



Bringing the audience to tears as she accepted the Power award, Oprah Winfrey acknowledged the nine graduates, who were all in attendance, of her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy For Girls.

"I never wanted to be a mother, but I am humbled by this day," said the mogul, 59, while looking over at the nine students who have all been accepted to U.S. colleges and call her "Mom Oprah."

Also honored: Alfre Woodard, who received the Vanguard award, Gabrielle Union, who picked up the Fierce & Fearless award, and Skyfall's Naomi Harris, who took home the Lincoln Shining Star award.

Woodard had the room in stitches as she recalled being questioned about dating and later marrying her husband, Roderick Spencer, who is white.

"What are you doing with him?" the actress, 60, remembered being asked. "Sleeping with him!" she shot back. "Hollywood didn't know what to do with me when I arrived," she added. "I didn't fit the mold, but I didn't break my mold and I will always be a cheerleader for you black beauties."

The 85th annual Academy Awards will air live on ABC starting at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on Sunday, Feb. 24, from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

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