Rue From The Hunger Games Grew Up To Be Gorgeous

Amandla Stenberg — aka Rue from The Hunger Games  — is somehow all grown up. Since her breakout role opposite Jennifer Lawrence in the 2012 film, Stenberg went on to star in other major feature films like Everything, Everything and The Hate U Give.

Born in October 1998, Stenberg has already managed to make quite a name for herself in Hollywood. She's also living up to the name her parents gave her. Amandla means "power" in Zulu and Xhosa and Stenberg is certainly a powerful and dynamic young woman. If you haven't seen any of Stenberg's work since her Hunger Games days, you're in for quite a surprise. But don't be shocked if you have trouble recognizing her; Stenberg has changed a lot as she has entered young adulthood and began transforming into a gorgeous young woman. Here's a closer look at how Amandla Stenberg has changed over the course of her career.

Amandla Stenberg knew she wanted to act long before playing Rue in The Hunger Games

Some people spend their childhoods picturing themselves in different careers while others wonder if they'll ever know what they want to do when they grow up. Amandla Stenberg, however, has practically always known that she wanted to spend her life acting. In fact, Stenberg can't even remember a time when she didn't want to act, telling the Los Angeles Times that she begged her mom to find her an agent when she was just three years old.

Yes, Stenberg's earliest memories are centered on acting. She told W Magazine that she doesn't even "really remember making the decision" to become an actress, but that she has "always wanted to do it." Stenberg "was about four years old" when she started acting, although she was far from an overnight success. She worked her way up through the ranks in Hollywood, with her early jobs consisting of commercials for companies like Walmart, Kmart, KFC, and McDonald's.

The Hunger Games wasn't Amandla Stenberg's first foray into film

While her role as Rue in The Hunger Games can be considered Amandla Stenberg's breakthrough performance, it was not her first role in a blockbuster film. Before she landed the role of Rue, Stenberg starred in Colombiana, in which she played the younger version of Zoe Saldana's character, Cat, who has to escape from the people who murdered her parents. Stenberg had to undergo hardcore training for the role, studying Parkour as well as working on running, jumping, and climbing.

Her experience on the Colombiana set was a positive one, though, and proved to be a good introduction into the world of film. The actress told the Los Angeles Times that her castmates were "like a family," adding that she "became very close to the crew." After her role in Colombiana, Stenberg went on to appear in the TV film A Taste of Romance before she played the pivotal role in The Hunger Games.

Amandla Stenberg was a huge Hunger Games fan even before landing the role of Rue

It's hard to forget the heartbreaking performance Amandla Stenberg gave as Rue in The Hunger Games. While her character — spoiler! — may not have survived, the memory of Stenberg's performance lives on. Stenberg was so perfect in the role that it seems like it was meant for her. In fact, it's hard not to believe fate played a role considering just how much Stenberg loved the book, dubbing herself a "fan-fan-fan-girl." Stenberg explained further to W Magazine, saying, "I remember kids telling me that the description of Rue in the book reminded them of me, and then I read it, and it became my favorite book."

Stenberg went all out to land the role, telling the Los Angeles Times that she even turned up to the audition in costume. In The Hunger Games, Rue fights for her life in the arena and stays alive by hiding in trees. Stenberg said that her mom rolled some of her clothes in dirt and grass "and put leaves and twigs in my hair to try to make it look like I had been in the woods for a few weeks." 

Amandla Stenberg's early role as Rue in The Hunger Games did not translate to immediate success

While you'd think that Amandla Stenberg's commanding performance in The Hunger Games would be enough to launch her acting career, it wasn't quite that easy. For years, Stenberg struggled to find substantial roles and found herself being offered tiny — not to mention problematic — parts. "It was so challenging to find roles for black girls that weren't really trivializing or harmful in some way," she told IndieWire, adding that she either didn't work for "stretches of time" or otherwise "couldn't find anything besides 'daughter of drug dealer' or 'hood girl no. 2 who has a fresh mouth."

Those kinds of roles didn't appeal to Stenberg, not because she necessarily wanted bigger parts, but because she didn't "want to further perpetuate negative stereotypes around black women" by taking on such roles. It would be years before Stenberg landed another substantial and meaningful role like that of Rue in The Hunger Games

Playing Rue in Hunger Games helped Amandla Stenberg realize a crucial part of her identity

Playing Rue in The Hunger Games was a turning point for Amandla Stenberg in more ways than one. Not only did the hit film provide Stenberg with her breakthrough role, but it also helped her get a firm grasp of her identity as a black woman. After it came out, the film attracted some backlash because, as Jezebel put it, some "racist Hunger Games fans" were upset that Rue was played by a black actress. As noted by Jezebel, Rue's ethnicity was never explicitly stated in the book, although she was described as having "dark brown skin and eyes."

Stenberg explained to Teen Vogue that after starring in The Hunger Games she was exposed to a lot of racism, including being called the N-word and being told that Rue's death would've been sadder if she weren't black. "That was the first moment I realized being black was such a crucial part of my identity in terms of the way that I was perceived and how it would affect any line of work that I wanted to pursue," said Stenberg.

After playing Rue in The Hunger Games, Amandla Stenberg made history with her comic book

Amandla Stenberg is a woman of many talents. In 2015, she co-created a comic book with artist Ashley A. Woods and author/publisher Sebastian A. Jones. Titled Niobe: She Is Life, the comic made history as it was "the first internationally distributed comic with a black female author, artist, and central character," Vogue noted.

In 2017, Stenberg followed up Niobe: She Is Life by continuing the series with the second in a proposed trilogy, Niobe: She Is Death. The comics focus on orphaned teenager Niobe Ayutami, an elf living in the fantasy world of Asunda and charged with binding nations against the devil and hell. Stenberg told The Culture that she identifies with Niobe, calling her "a wonderful, nuanced model." She added that, like Niobe, she tries to "stay grounded in [her] roots and spirituality, as well as defy gender roles and assert [her] own power and independence. "

Amandla Stenberg turned her Hunger Games success into Lemonade

While she hasn't made as many waves with her music as she has with her acting career, that may all change for Amandla Stenberg in the future. You may remember seeing her in Beyoncé's "Lemonade" visual album in 2016, but what you might not know is that the actress is also a wildly talented musician who can play the violin, guitar, and drums — in addition to having a killer set of pipes. She has also recorded some of her own music and is listed on the soundtracks of Everything, Everything, Euphoria, and The Eddy.

It's clear that Stenberg has what it takes to launch a successful music career, but as of 2019, she was feeling content with contributing to soundtracks and making music for herself. She told Vanity Fair that she does plan on putting her music out there "at some point," but she also loves using it as "a therapeutic tool," adding that she's "not trying to put that pressure on myself — there's already enough pressure."

Years after her supporting role as Rue in The Hunger Games, Amandla Stenberg finally secured a lead part

It would be a few years after Amandla Stenberg played Rue in The Hunger Games that she would go on to land another major film role. In fact, half a decade passed between the release of the film that gave Stenberg her breakthrough role and the release of her next major project, Everything, Everything. Stenberg had a handful of roles in that time period, including a guest arc on Sleepy Hollow, a role in Rio 2, and a starring role in the indie film As You Are, but Everything, Everything was Stenberg's first-ever leading role in a major film. In the film, Stenberg played Maddy, a girl who must remain isolated in her home due to an illness but still manages to find love.

Stenberg was drawn to the role because of its diverse casting as well as the fact that the film was based on a book written by a black woman, Nicola Yoon. "I also thought it was important when I considered how many people would get to see this girl with natural hair carry the film," Stenberg told The Aquarian.

This realization filled The Hunger Games actress with a profound sense of relief

Amandla Stenberg's awareness of her sexuality has evolved throughout her life. In 2016, she took over Teen Vogue's Snapchat and identified herself as a bisexual woman. By 2018, however, she realized that she didn't identify as bisexual but as gay. Stenberg explained to Wonderland Magazine, "[Socialization] is a b**** and a half and kept me from understanding and living my truth for a while."

Finally coming to terms with her sexuality was a huge moment for the actress who "was so overcome with this profound sense of relief" to discover her true self. She continued, saying, "I was flooded with a sense of calm and peace because everything that I struggled with or felt discomfort around finally made sense to me, and once those floodgates opened and years of pent up pain and shame were released, I found the freedom to live my best life waiting for me just underneath." Stenberg's realization of her sexuality wasn't only empowering, but also freeing. Understanding herself helped her find "the freedom to live [her] best life."

Amandla Stenberg is more than the actress you know for playing Rue in The Hunger Games

As she has gotten older, Amandla Stenberg has become almost as well known for her activism as for she for her role as Rue in The Hunger Games. The outspoken young woman is an impassioned advocate who lends her voices to causes such as ending sexual assault and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Stenberg doesn't necessarily view herself as an activist, though, and certainly didn't set out to become one, explaining to Vanity Fair that it happened "accidentally." While her fans see her as an activist, the Hunger Games star is reluctant to adopt the title for herself as she goes to protests but isn't "out there on the front lines." She added, "It feels kind of presumptuous to take on that label."

While Stenberg may not want to call herself an activist, there is no doubt that her words and her actions resonate. She told Interview that she speaks up about issues because if she didn't, she "wouldn't be [her]self." She further explained that she started being more vocal about her beliefs because she wanted to use her "built-in platform ... to actually do something."

Amandla Stenberg's role in this film was a huge departure from Rue in The Hunger Games

One of Amandla Stenberg's most meaningful roles was in 2018's The Hate U Give, a film about police brutality in which Stenberg plays Starr Carter, a teenager who witnesses her childhood friend, and fellow black teenager brutally murdered by a white police officer. Stenberg was determined to land the role after reading a copy of the novel on which the film was based, telling W Magazine that she fell in love with the character of Starr right away. Stenberg was drawn to Starr because "she's multi-dimensional, she's authentic, and she's so unafraid to be truly herself, which she realizes through these really challenging, traumatic circumstances that reflect what's happening in our world right now."

Stenberg told IndieWire that her agent "pitched her hard" and that she "went HAM" to get the role, saying she put her "heart into it." As a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, the story was especially important to Stenberg. In an interview with Wonderland Magazine, Stenberg said she wanted The Hate U Give to raise awareness. "I hope the film is able to reach those to whom these events seem trivial and ground it in reality for them," she said.

The Hunger Games' Amandla Stenberg is excited to see Hollywood becoming more inclusive

Hollywood has changed considerably since Amandla Stenberg played Rue in The Hunger Games back in 2012. The industry has become more inclusive over the years and Stenberg is happy to see the change. While as a child she found it "nearly impossible ... to find roles that felt empowered" and "were not victim roles," as she told Variety in 2018, Stenberg has been able to find more meaningful parts as she's gotten older — and not just because of her growing fame.

Stenberg explained that since she appeared in The Hunger Games, Hollywood has shifted and begun to tell more diverse stories with films like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians. Stenberg said she was also heartened to see the impact of the Time's Up movement. While she acknowledged that Hollywood is by no means where it needs to be, she "definitely think[s] it's a great time of change," and she is determined to be part of that change. According to Variety, Stenberg "lobbied her agents" and demanded that, by 2020, every project she signed would have 50 percent of its crew made up of women and people of color.

This is why the Hunger Games actress isn't obsessed with Instagram

Although Amandla Stenberg does have an Instagram account, you probably won't find her glued to her phone any time soon. The actress isn't a big fan of social media sites in general and back in 2017, she even ditched her smart phone. The actress admitted to Teen Vogue that she replaced her iPhone with a flip phone to protect her mental health "amid all of the chaos in the world."

She further explained to the publication that she thinks people — especially young people — spend too much time on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter. Stenberg revealed that a lot of her peers were "really unhappy or experiencing disconnection from reality" due to their attachment to social media. The actress was concerned that people place too much importance on social media and online "interactions with people they might not even know."

Amandla Stenberg was accepted to NYU after starring as Rue in The Hunger Games

In 2016, Amandla Stenberg announced on Instagram (via Teen Vogue) that she was heading to New York University to attend film school. However, in 2017, the actress told Marie Claire that she'd decided to defer admission for two years in order to focus on her acting career. When those two years were up, though, Stenberg did not head NYU. Instead, she continued to act, telling Gizmodo that she decided she would rather focus on her career than go to college, in part because of the astronomical cost of schooling, which, as of this writing, costs nearly $55,000 per year for tuition alone. Factor in housing and other fees and that total goes up to around $79,000. 

We can't blame Stenberg for choosing to focus on acting instead of forking over that kind of cash or taking out student loans to cover the cost. As The Hunger Games star put it in the interview with Gizmodo, "I was, like, I'd rather make money and learn on set than give a university all of my money and be broke for the rest of my life ... ."

Amandla Stenberg has big plans for her future

While Amandla Stenberg set aside her plans to attend college, she still has big dreams for her future. The actress told Gizmodo that she has plans to both write and direct, in addition to continuing her acting career. While a degree from the prestigious school would have certainly taught her a lot, Stenberg eventually decided that she could also learn quite a lot just by continuing her career — although she may still go to college one day "if it feels right," as she told The National.

Stenberg may not be getting a formal education on set, but that doesn't mean it's not a good one that will thoroughly prepare her for making her own films one day. "I feel like I'm being an apprentice to all the directors that I've worked with," she said. We look forward to seeing what Stenberg does in her future career!