Viola Davis

American actress and producer (born 1965)

Viola Davis (born August 11 1965) is an American actress and producer. She is notable as the first black actor to win the Triple Crown of Acting (to win an Emmy, an Academy, and a Tony award). She has starred in ABC's How to Get Away With Murder and the 2011 film The Help.

Viola Davis in 2015


  • It’s only been recently that I can admit that I would jump in trash bins looking for food and I would steal from the corner store because I was hungry. I would fall asleep in school on a daily basis because we had nothing.
  • Artists and actors of color have to alter and water ourselves down for Hollywood, but I refuse to be pacified.
    • Spoken during an address at Macky Auditorium as quoted in "Viola Davis shares words of wisdom with full audience at Macky Auditorium" by CU Independent.
  • I always say that one thing missing in cinema is that regular black woman…Not anyone didactic, or whose sole purpose in the narrative is to illustrate some social abnormality. There’s no meaning behind it, other than she is just there…I would love to have a black female Klute, or Kramer, or Unmarried Woman, or Annie Hall. But who’s gonna write it, who’s gonna produce it, who’s gonna see it, again and again and again?
  • I was trying to fit in, stifling my voice, stifling who I was, in order to be seen as pretty, in order for people to like me. And then going home, not being able to sleep and having anxiety. I have found that the labelling of me, and having to fit into that box, has cost me a great deal. I’ve had a lot of lost years.
  • …I know Jim Crow, I understand that time period. It’s a 100-year time period that was rife with lots of violence and anger, and people with lost dreams and hopes. I wanted the frustration and that anger to be more palpable.
  • …My definition of success is legacy, is significance. And also, might I add, my authenticity is my rebellion. It's my F.U., per se. It helps when I think of it like that. That's why I give these speeches; that's why I say what I say. And it's also my narcissism, because I feel that that's probably what sets me apart from most people. But all those things are in my idea of success. If I can go to my grave feeling like — you know, it's like Lorraine Toussaint said. She said the reason why she adopted her child is because she didn't want "series regular" to be on her tombstone. And yeah, I want something quite beautiful, like Shirley Chisholm — you know, on her tombstone is "Unbought and Unbossed." 
  • "Do not live someone else's life and someone else's idea of what womanhood is. Womanhood is you. Womanhood is everything that's inside of you."
  • Working hard is great when it’s motivated by passion and love and enthusiasm. But working hard when it’s motivated by deprivation is not pleasant.
  • .“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is an opportunity.”
  • “As Black women, we’re always given these seemingly devastating experiences—experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as Black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.”
  • Memories are immortal. They’re deathless and precise. They have the power of giving you joy and perspective in hard times. Or, they can strangle you. Define you in a way that’s based more in other people’s tucked-up perceptions than truth.
  • "Just like we have to redefine strength, we have to redefine beauty. It’s not even about beautiful, it’s about being who you are. It’s about being honest. It’s about stepping into, 'This is how I am in private, this is how I look, this is how I act, this is my mess, this is my strength, this is my beauty, this is my intelligence,' and then putting it out there that this is who I am."
  • "Forgive yourself — every minute of the day, every day, that would be number one. You always focus on your mistakes as a mom, and you just have to know that you're doing the best you can with what you know."
  • The more I'm pushed in a position of leadership and I know I have to be the mouthpiece for so many other people who can't speak for themselves, the more confidence I'm gaining.
  • "Everybody needs a parent. Everyone needs a guide, that proverbial lamp that is going to take you down darkened paths and teach you something about navigating life, even though you know you're going to face some crap in life. Someone to show you how to do what they did."
  • “But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as Black women are to take the worst situations and create from that point.”
  • “At the end of the day, nobody can tell you how to tackle failure or how to handle change. The world is very good at encouraging you to go along with the status quo and at basking in your successes.”
  • "What's released me most from the fear of aging is self-awareness. I've never determined my value based on my looks or anything physical. I've been through a lot in life, and what has gotten me through is strength of character and faith."
  • “You can’t shine if you have two lines in the background as a bus driver. You can only shine if you’re included in the narrative, and narratives start when you put pen to paper and you use your imagination. You just tell a story. That’s all you do. You tell a story. You don’t put any boundaries on it. It’s infinite and that’s the only way we can do what we do is that people use their imaginations so that we can be included in it.”
  • They say the two most important days in a person's life were the day you were born and the day you discover why you were born.
  • “I own my story. I own my failures. I’m not interested in being perfect. That’s how I deal [with stress]. I don’t put on a mask. I think that the effort to put on the mask is probably more detrimental than just being able to step up and admit your vulnerability in front of people who have enough empathy for you.”
  • The one thing I feel is lacking in Hollywood today is an understanding of the beauty, the power, the sexuality, the uniqueness, the humor of being a regular Black woman.
  • “They say to serve is to love. I think to serve is to heal, too.”
  • "There is an emotional abandonment that comes with poverty and being Black,”
  • "I will not be a mystery to my daughter. She will know me and I will share my stories with her—the stories of failure, shame and accomplishment. She will know she's not alone in that wilderness."
  • “Your ability to adapt to failure and navigate your way out of it, absolutely, one hundred percent, makes you who you are…”
  • “You find people in your life who love you, They give you permission to be able to love yourself. That permission was life-changing for Davis. When you are in the face of compassion and empathy, it’s amazing how it kills shame, Because you’re seen for something way for valuable than your circumstance.”
  • All dreams are within reach. All you have to do is keep moving towards them
  • ‘You can either leave something for people or you can leave something in people’
  • “I’m living for my peace and my joy,”
  • “I don’t care how sexy or beautiful any woman is. At the end of the day, she has to take her makeup off. At the end of the day, she’s more than just pretty.”
  • Critics absolutely serve no purpose.
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