Iconic actor and producer Viola Davis has demonstrated during her time in the industry that she’s no shrinking violet. As the first Black woman to take home an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony for acting (per The Telegraph), she’s proven that her talent is a force to be reckoned with. “This is the first time in my life I’ve stepped back — I’m going to try not to cry right now — and I can’t believe my life,” she stammered out in a now-famous tear-filled Oscars acceptance speech.
But while she’s a household name, surprisingly, there are still many aspects of Davis’ personality that her droves of fans are not aware of. Take her impoverished childhood riddled with strife and struggle, for instance. Or the fact that she regrets one of her famous acting roles.
Perhaps, however, there’s a reason for some of Davis’ mystique. “If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for,” she recited from the novel My Argument With the Gestapo during a candid interview with Vanity Fair. Fortunately, Nicki Swift has done all the digging for you! Keep reading after the jump to learn all there is to know about the multi-faceted and deeply-layered Viola Davis.
Viola Davis hails from humble beginnings
While it’s safe to say that Viola Davis lives a rather comfortable lifestyle (including an estimated net worth of $25 million, per Celebrity Net Worth), it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, according to Davis, she grew up in “abject poverty.” During a powerful speech at Variety‘s Power of Women luncheon, the affluent actor and producer famously confessed, “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. I’ve stolen for food, I’ve jumped in huge garbage bins with maggots for food. I have befriended people in the neighborhood who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food. And I sacrificed a childhood for food — and grew up in immense shame.”
Fortunately, Davis later channeled her pain into passion and joined Hunger Is, a charity with a mission to “combat childhood hunger and improve health-related outcomes,” per the Entertainment Industry Foundation. In July of 2020, during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Davis resolved to go “all in” for the program. “Childhood hunger was a crisis in the U.S. before the coronavirus, but this pandemic has left even more kids without the reliable meals they need,” she penned in an Instagram post. “I know from personal experience that your sense of value and worth is taken away from you when you don’t have the food you need,” she recalled in the post.
Viola Davis regrets this famous role
One of Viola Davis’ most famous roles to date is the one in which she plays the formidable maid Aibileen, in The Help. As movie watchers may recall, Aibileen famously serves her on-screen nemesis an unassuming pie filled with her own fecal matter. No doubt, a moment that will live rent-free in viewers minds for a lifetime. Alas, this fan favorite is not high on Davis’ acting gigs list.
During an interview with The New York Times, Davis admitted that she “regretted” the role and felt that the movie missed the mark with its portrayal of Aibileen’s character. “I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard. I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom,” she said. “And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it. I never heard that in the course of the movie.”
Davis was adamant, however, that she did not regret the relationships that she cultivated while filming the project. “The friendships that I formed are ones that I’m going to have for the rest of my life. I had a great experience with these other actresses, who are extraordinary human beings,” she maintained.
Violo Davis is an introvert
Due to working in show biz, some might be inclined to believe that Viola Davis is an extrovert — but as it turns out, the famous thespian considers herself to be on the very opposite end of the spectrum.
During a 2018 interview with The Guardian, the iconic actor divulged that she fancied herself more of an introvert. “I’m not an extroverted person,” she said. “I used to have crippling social anxiety. When I first started acting, I would get bad stage fright and when I say bad, I mean heart palpitations. I would stop cold in rehearsal. I’d have people screaming at me just to open my mouth and say a word.”
Fortunately, Davis found a way to work past her anxieties and soldier on so as to carve out a successful career for herself. “This is socialization on steroids, this business. I’m so much better than I used to be,” she explained. Hey, maybe stars really are just like us…
Viola Davis is a proud adoptive mom
While it’s no secret that Viola Davis has a lengthy and impressive resume, the award-winning actress relishes in her personal roles too, including her role as mother to her adopted daughter, Genesis Tennon.
“There are so many ways to mother rather than to carry a child in your body. So many children need parents, and so many of us want to mother. Know that you will experience motherhood to the full extent,” Davis proudly declared in a 2015 interview with InStyle (via E! News) when asked what she would say to other women considering adoption.
And Davis loves to sing her daughter’s praises loudly for all of the world to hear. “You were born from mommy’s heart. I love you so much for accepting me as your mommy. Happy birthday Miss Genesis! Love, love my baby!!!” the proud mama gushed in a birthday post to her daughter.
Viola Davis describes her life as 'a protest'
Like most Americans, actor Viola Davis was left feeling helpless after the tragic death of George Floyd. While every bone in her body told her to join countless others as they protested in solidarity against the senseless and unjust murder, she also wrestled with concerns for her own health as the coronavirus pandemic surged on, killing many in its path.
“She called me and said she was going,” Davis’ friend and fellow actor, Octavia Spencer, told Vanity Fair. “I immediately talked her out of that.” And though Spencer’s intentions were noble, she admits it still stung. “Both of us cried,” Spencer continued. “This WAS our civil rights movement, and we were sidelined because of health issues. We felt isolated from the movement.”
But as it turns out, Davis is no stranger to protests. In fact, she finds it to be a recurring theme for her life. “I feel like my entire life has been a protest. My production company is my protest. Me not wearing a wig at the Oscars in 2012 was my protest. It is a part of my voice, just like introducing myself to you and saying, ‘Hello, my name is Viola Davis,'” she explained to Vanity Fair.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been this way for the on-camera legend. “When I was younger I did not exert my voice because I did not feel worthy of having a voice,” she confessed. Good thing she’s making up for lost time!
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