Being female and black in Hollywood have proved to be obstacles in the past for many actors.
But Oscar award nominee and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award-winner Viola Davis is smashing the stereotype.
Viola’s latest film, Fences, won her the recent SAG award for ‘outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role’, and she has an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress for the same film.
Fences, which also stars Denzel Washington (who’s nominated for best actor), is adapted from the Tony-Award- winning stage play by August Wilson, and follows the story of former Negro League baseball player Troy Maxson (Washington), who works as a garbage collector as he and his wife Rose (Viola) battle racial tensions in 1950s America.
Rose is a role Viola knows well, as she played it on Broadway, winning the 2010 Tony Award for ‘best actress’ in a play.
At the SAG awards, Viola praised the play’s author, August Wilson, for giving a voice to her people.
“What August did so beautifully is that he honoured the average man, who happened to be a man of colour,” Viola said. “He elevated my mother, my father, and my uncles who had eighth and fifth grade educations and encapsulated them in history.”
Celebrating her presence in what can be a very manufactured world, Viola also told the SAG awards audience, “And thank you to all the people who love me exactly how God made me,” while she posted on social media, “All I can say is God has blessed my life in abundance.”
The actress has come a long way from humble beginnings as a child in abject poverty.
“Although my childhood was filled with many happy memories, I was one of the 17 million kids in this country who didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, and I did everything to get food,” she told Variety magazine’s 2014 Power of Women luncheon.
Today she is happily married to producer Julius Tennon, with whom she adopted daughter Genesis as a baby.
Viola studied at Rhode Island College, majoring in theatre, and followed this with studies at the prestigious Juilliard School for performing arts in New York.
As a teenager, she attended Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, and hasn’t forgotten where she came from, raising and donating money for the school and the city’s library.
Viola has been a trailblazer for black actresses, being the first black woman to receive three Academy Award nominations—the previous two being for the 2008 film Doubt and the second for her role as a maid in the impressive 2012 Southern period drama The Help.
In 2015 she became the first black woman to win an Emmy Award for a lead actress in a television drama series as law professor Annalise Keating in How to Get Away With Murder. And in January Viola received the 2,597th star on the iconic Walk of Fame.
Viola Davis has proved that if you have faith in yourself and God, you can do anything.