Viola Davis covers Vanity Fair, says her ‘entire life has been a protest’

The celebrated actress told the outlet that as a dark-skinned African American from Rhode Island, she has had to personally struggle in her life for equality

Viola Davis
Viola Davis joins L’Oréal Paris to celebrate the launch of Age Perfect Cosmetics on March 03, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for L'Oréal Paris )

Academy Award-winner, Viola Davis, shared with Vanity Fair her thoughts about the protests taking place in America in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. 

In the cover story for the legendary magazine, Davis recounted that she, her husband Julius Tennon, and other actors staged a mini-protest In Studio City, California. She told Vanity Fair that her sign simply read, “Ahmaud Arbery.” 

READ MORE: How Viola Davis’ leading lady Annalise Keating made me feel seen

When asked if she had ever participated in a similar protest event by writer Sonia Saraiya, Davis replied, “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.’”

According to the article, the interview took place on Juneteeth at her Los Angeles home and the cover story was shot by Dario Calmese, a Black photographer. 

Davis talked extensively about her life growing up as a dark-skinned Black woman in Rhode Island. She said that the experience made it challenging for her to find her own worth. 

The article notes that Davis, a Juilliard graduate, has challenges with how Hollywood portrays African Americans. She was nominated for an Oscar for her role in The Help. However, she said that “not a lot of narratives are also invested in our humanity,” Davis affirmed, saying that more work should help audiences be moved by “who we (are).” 

READ MORE: Viola Davis on saying goodbye to Annalise Keating: ‘I’m feeling emotional’

Davis said that Hollywood can be a place that squelches the authentic voices of African Americans who can often be labeled difficult, stifling their careers. Addressing racial issues in Hollywood, Davis directly spoke to the very magazine for which she was being interviewed.

“They’ve had a problem in the past with putting Black women on the covers,” she said, “There’s a real absence of dark-skinned Black women… You are putting us in a complete cloak of invisibility.” 

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!