Named for the Zulu and Xhosa word for "power," Amandla was born in Los Angeles, California, to Karen Brailsford, a writer, and Tom Stenberg, a businessman. Her mother is African-American and her father is Danish (and of part Inuit-Greenlandic ancestry).
In the summer and fall of 2010, she shot her first feature, Colombiana (2011), an action-thriller starring Zoe Saldana whose character, the avenging assassin Cataleya Restrepo, Amandla plays as a child. In April 2011, Lionsgate announced that Amandla had landed the role of Rue in the screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' popular young adult series, The Hunger Games (2012). For her heart-breaking performance, Amandla earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture. She also won (with Jennifer Lawrence) a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Chemistry.