The Youngest Award Winners Ever

Some people take a lifetime to reach the top, while others win the biggest awards as youngsters.


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Fifty years ago this month, ten-year-old Tatum O’Neal reshaped the expectations of what an Oscar-winning performance looked like. With the premiere of Paper Moon, O’Neal performed alongside her father, Ryan, and captivated critics. By the time the Academy Awards rolled around, O’Neal would be the youngest Oscar winner ever. That led us to wonder about others who notched achievements at the top of their fields at the youngest ages, not only in the familiar EGOT foursome of Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and Tonys, but in areas like the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes. Here’s our look at the youngest of the greatest.


Tatum O’Neal (10), Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon (1973)

Tatum O’Neal wins her Oscar (Uploaded to YouTube by Oscars)

Paper Moon was based on Joe David Brown’s novel Addie Pray. Director Peter Bogdanovich paired lead Ryan O’Neal (a firmly established star from Peyton Place and Love Story) and O’Neal’s daughter Tatum (in her first film) as a con man and his supposed daughter/apprentice. Critics like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were effusive in their praise, and much of the positive reception for the film focused on the younger O’Neal. Still, her win was something of a shock, as she was in the category against Paper Moon co-star Madeline Khan, Candy Clark (American Graffiti), genuine legend Silvia Sydney (Summer Wishes, Summer Dreams), and another landmark child performance given by Linda Blair (The Exorcist). O’Neal has continued to act in film and television and has written two books about her life.

Anna Paquin (11), Best Supporting Actress for The Piano (1993)
Patty Duke (16), Best Supporting Actress for The Miracle Worker (1962)


Roxana Zal (14), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie for Something About Amelia (1984)

Roxana Zal gave a strong performance in a film that hasn’t aged well. She plays Amelia, a teenage girl who discloses to her guidance counselor that her father (Ted Danson) has been molesting her. To our 2023 eyes, that’s when it goes off the rails, as seemingly everyone else in the film, from therapists to cops, attempts to give the dad an out. Amelia’s mom (Glenn Close!) initially takes dad’s side, and the therapist suggests that men occasionally have sex with their daughters when the fire dies in their marriage. Yes, that’s insane. Regardless, the film was considered groundbreaking in the Reagan Era and pulled in a number of nominations and awards. Zal continued to act until 2006 when she became a fashion designer.

Kristy McNichol (15), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Family (twice, in 1977 and 1979)
Scott Jacoby (16), Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Drama for That Certain Summer (1972)


Given the wide-ranging nature of the Grammys, we’re recognizing a few distinctions.

Youngest Individual Credited: Blue Ivy Carter (9), Best Music Video (2021)

The daughter of Beyoncé and Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), Carter appeared as a featured artist on her mother’s track “Brown Skin Girl” from the 2019 soundtrack album, The Lion King: The Gift. She also appeared in the video that was a segment in Beyoncé’s musical film Black Is King. The video won the Best Music Video Grammy in 2021, making Carter the youngest credited Grammy winner.

Youngest Individual Winner: Walter Russell III (14), Best Opera Recording (2023)

Walter Russell III wins his Grammy (Uploaded to YouTube by Recording Academy/GRAMMYs)

Russell was already a theatre vet by the time he nabbed his Grammy earlier this year. Featured on Broadway in both The Lion King as Simba and MJ: The Musical (having played both Michael and Marlon Jackson), he transitioned to opera in Blanchard: Fire Shut Up My Bones. He was the principal soloist in the production and earned the award for that work.

Youngest Best New Artist: LeAnn Rimes (14), 1997

LeAnn Rimes actually won two Grammys at age 14. Like Russell, she won an individual award, but was older than he was by a few weeks; that award was Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her breakthrough smash, “Blue.” That same year she also took Best New Artist.

Youngest as Part of Group: The Peasall Sisters (Leah, 8; Hannah, 11; Sarah, 14), 2000

The Peasall Sisters first got noticed as the singing voices of the daughters of George Clooney’s character in O Brother, Where Are Thou? That 2000 film yielded a major hit soundtrack stuffed with “old-timey” country music, including the girls’ version of “In the Highways,” which had been written by the legendary “Mother” Maybelle Carter. The soundtrack won for Album of the Year, which acknowledges all participants. As such, Leah Peasall became the youngest overall Grammy winner, while joining her siblings in the distinction of being the three youngest winners as part of a group.

Youngest to Win Album of the Year: Billie Eilish (18) for When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2020)

Billie Eilish exploded onto the music scene with her massively successful full-length debut, When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? The album yielded six Grammys, including the top prize.  Eilish co-wrote 12 of the 14 songs with her brother, Finneas O’Connell (he wrote the remaining two solo). At age 21, Eilish has already sold 5 million albums and 41.5 million digital singles.

Taylor Swift (20) for Fearless (2010) [Note: Swift won two subsequent Album of the Year Grammys for 1989 (2016) and Folklore (2021).]
Alanis Morrissette (21) for Jagged Little Pill (1996)


Youngest Tony Winner: Frankie Miles (11), Featured Actor in a Musical for Mame (1966)

Some people might think that working with Angela Lansbury is a reward on its own. In the case of Frankie Miles, who played Young Patrick Dennis opposite Lansbury in Mame, that opportunity led him to Broadway’s biggest honor in 1966. Had the ceremony been held five weeks earlier, Miles would have still been only 10.

Daisy Eagan (11), Featured Actress in a Musical for The Secret Garden (1992)
“The Billy Elliot trio” of Trent Kowalik (14), David Alvarez (15), and Kiril Kulish (15), Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for Billy Elliot (2009). Since all three actors worked together to play the title character throughout the show, the Tonys opted to combine the actors into a single nomination. Don’t worry; they each got one to take home.

A Matilda medley from the 2013 Tonys (Uploaded to YouTube by MiraculousMatilda)

Notable Mention: Though not an official Tony, the governing body chose to bestow a special award to the leading young ladies of Matilda in 2013. Sophia Gennusa (9), Oona Laurence (10), Bailey Ryon (11), and Milly Shapiro (10) were acknowledged with the Tony Honor for Excellence, making Gennusa the youngest Tony Honor winner.

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Josephine Winslow Johnson (24), for Now in November (1935)

Born in 1910, Johnson drew attention for her essays, poetry, and fiction. In 1934, she won her first O. Henry Award for the short story, “Dark.” The following year, she won another O. Henry for “John the Six” and claimed the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her debut novel, Now in November. It related the story of a Dust Bowl family five years before The Grapes of Wrath trod similar ground; Johnson’s story, however, focuses on one family on one farm over the course of a year. Johnson would go on to win three more O. Henry Awards and continue writing for decades. Her final novel arrived in 1974; she passed in 1990.

Congressional Medal of Honor

Private First Class Jacklyn Harold “Jack” Lucas (17)
PFF Jacklyn H. Lucas, USMC (Wikimedia Commons via Rlevse using CommonsHelper; Public domain)

If one thing is certain, it’s that Jack Lucas wanted to be a Marine. At age 14, he pretended to be 17 and used his mother’s forged signature to allow him to enlist. Three years later, Lucas landed at Iwo Jima. On February 20, 1945, he saved three of his comrades from a grenade attack, partially shielding them from the blast with his own body. Suffering injuries to his chest, right leg and thigh, and right arm and wrist, Lucas appeared to have been killed. He was later found by fellow Marines and evacuated; his wounds necessitated 21 surgeries. That October, he was presented with his Medal by President Truman. Remarkably, Lucas would enlist in the U.S. Army in 1961 where he attained the rank of captain. Lucas died in 2008. In 2016, the U.S. Navy named the Arleigh Burke-class destroyerDDG-125, the U.S.S. Jack H. Lucas in his honor.

Nobel Prize

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi receiving their Nobel Laureates (Shutterstock)
Youngest Nobel Laureate: Malala Yousafzai (17), Nobel Peace Prize (2014)

If you’ve never heard Malala Yousafzai’s remarkable story, then you might deserve a Nobel prize for news avoidance. The Pakistani youngster was only 11 when she started blogging under a pseudonym about the Taliban occupation of the Swat District and their rigid restrictions against women receiving formal education. Over the next three years, her public profile escalated through interviews and activism, leading a Taliban assassin to make an attempt on her life. Malala survived a gunshot wound to the head and remained undeterred in her mission. She co-wrote the international bestseller I Am Malala in 2013. The following year, she shared the Nobel Peace Prize with India’s Kailash Satyarthi. Today, at 25, she continues her work as an education advocate.

Lawrence Bragg (25), Nobel Prize in Physics (1915). Bragg was acknowledged for his pioneering work in using X-rays to analyze crystal structures.

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  1. An interesting feature, to be sure. Thanks for including Tatum O’Neal’s acceptance speech for ‘Paper Moon’. I had the wonderful privilege of meeting and speaking with Tatum in February 2019 at a TV and film star convention (Marriott) near LAX. I initially went to meet Angie Dickinson, but it was raining like crazy and she cancelled.

    Shatner was there, so a few banquet rooms were without guests. She was by herself at a table with some autograph pictures and some without. Very charming, lovely and easy to talk to. It was mainly about Peter Bogdanovich. She really lit up when I mentioned his name and all of the films we both love that he directed and created. Also how he despised today’s brain dead CGI all-look-alike films.

    She loves film noir too, and how black and white draws us in. On ‘Paper Moon’ she was pleased to hear I noticed the first time seeing it, how Bogdanovich really went the extra mile in making it look and sound as if it had actually been made in the 1930’s; it was so authentic. Of course I bought some photos, but she ‘threw in’ a couple for free saying ‘I insist’. One of the most graceful, inspiring, intelligent and enchanting people I’ve ever met.


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