Youth Impact Report 2011: Up Next

In “Butter,” Yara Shahidi plays an adoptive couple’s lone hope for the future — a thinly veiled stand-in for Obama in a sly political satire. It’s a key role in the well-reviewed comedy, which premiered at the Telluride film fest, and one in which Shahidi shines.

The 11-year-old, Minnesota-born thesp began her entertainment career at a mere 6 weeks old in commercial and print ads. At age 4, she moved to California and has since racked up acting credits in “Imagine That,” “Unthinkable” and “Salt” (she dubbed Angelina Jolie “uber nice”).

“Butter” star Jennifer Garner was impressed by Shahidi’s “natural affability” while on set. “There’s a very natural intelligence in any performance that she gives,” says Garner. “She’s an old soul and a little kid all at the same time.”

Garner recalls one particularly demanding day on set when many of the film’s butter-carving characters had to deliver big speeches to explain their dairy sculptures. “She had put hand motions to it very much like a little kid would do,” Garner says. Shahidi remembers prepping for that scene as well, turning to none other than videos of Barack Obama’s inauguration speech for inspiration.

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