Films / Race / Women and Gender

Quote of the Day: Viola Davis on Women of Color, Dreams and Her Life’s Mission

Viola Davis at the 81st Academy Awards

Viola Davis at the 81st Academy Awards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Originally published at Bitch Flicks.

The internet has been abuzz over Meryl Streep’s badass statement at Women in Film (WIF)’s Crystal + Lucy Awards condemning the “underrepresentation of women” in film and Hollywood’s preoccupation with “big tent-pole failures.” She went on to question, “Don’t they want the money?” since women’s films like The Devil Wears Prada and Mamma Miahave been box-office blockbusters. And the divine Streep couldn’t be more right. We desperately need more women on-screen (and behind the camera), especially considering women comprise only 33% of speaking roles in film.

Streep presented Viola Davis with the 2012 Crystal Award for Excellence in Film. Journalists and bloggers have also been busy reporting on the sisterly camaraderie and “love fest” between the two friends at the awards ceremony.

But what the media seems to have overlooked is the ever poised and articulate Viola Davis’ moving acceptance speech. Davis spoke about her mom, acting as a vehicle for expressing the pain and joy in her life, women of color’s dreams, and the legacy she hopes to leave:

“I realized I spent my entire life trying to be better than my mom. That I am the daughter and the granddaughter and the great-granddaughter and the great-great-great-granddaughter of so many women whose dreams are in the graveyard. They’re women of color who worked in the tobacco fields and the cotton fields and children by the time they were 15, left school in the 8th grade and a dream was just ambiguous to them. 

“And I realized that I wanted to have a dream. And I think that I chose acting because all my life has been filled with stories of people of color that have been filled with so much complexity and duality. And so much of my life has been filled with so much pain and humor and joyous moments that I felt the need to express that. And I couldn’t do it in a 9 to 5 [job]. 

“I believe unlike my mom and my grandmother and my great-grandmother that the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, truly being who you are. 

“And I’ve spent far too long apologizing for that — my age, my color, my lack of classical beauty — that now at the age of…well at the age of 46 I’m very proud to be Viola Davis, for whatever it’s worth. 

“And I never want to look in the face of a young actress of color and think to myself, “What’s out there for her?” The only thing worse than a graveyard, artistic graveyard, filled with women…[Davis undoubtedly said something awesome here but the video cut out]

“The higher purpose of my life is not the song and dance or the acclaim, but to rise up, to pull up others and leave the world and industry a better place.” 

Words cannot capture just how much I adore this woman. She is truly a role model and inspiration to us all.

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One thought on “Quote of the Day: Viola Davis on Women of Color, Dreams and Her Life’s Mission

  1. Very Nice, wish I was there – our project is right on the front line. We are trying to put women (especially over 40) in film. It’s embarrassing what the studio system does to most very talented female actors, especially over forty. AND ANYONE TRYING TO MAKE A FILM ABOUT THEM. Please support us at kickstarter search Mickey Michelle. Thank you Meg, you’re much appreciated.

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