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What hit in 2011: “The Help"
What’s next: Starring opposite Julianne Hough and Russell Brand in Diablo Cody's untitled directorial debut, in addition to a slew of smaller upcoming projects (most of which she was cast in prior to "The Help"'s release) including the alcoholism dramedy "Smashed" with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul.
Lowdown: In an industry where "It Girls" are almost invariably white, stick-thin and under the age of 30, calling Octavia Spencer an anomaly is practically an understatement. And yet the 41-year-old actress managed to transcend the cruel boundaries placed on females in Hollywood with her winning performance in this summer's "The Help", in which she stole nearly every scene as the feisty, disgruntled Southern maid Minny Jackson. Far from a "fresh face", as these up-and-comers are often called, Spencer has been diligently building up her resume as an actress for the last 15 years, first appearing in a brief role as a nurse in Joel Schumacher's "A Time to Kill" and going on to book mostly-thankless supporting parts in films including "Never Been Kissed", "Seven Pounds" and last year's "Dinner for Schmucks". After years of near-obscurity Spencer is now the subject of Oscar talk, a deserving state of affairs for a woman who even managed to make her brief, blood-soaked murder scene in Rob Zombie's "Halloween II" the most memorable moment in the film.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello