Last night, Viola Davis made history at the 2015 Emmy Awards and ever since, her emotional acceptance speech has been making the rounds on social media. Rightfully so, as it’s bound to give you all the feels. Plus she looked absolutely beautiful, even while holding back tears and dropping powerful words on viewers.
However, Viola’s background story is far less glamorous. Before she became the first Black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, she fought to succeed in spite of facing “abject poverty” as a young girl.
The How to Get Away with Murder star has revealed the details surrounding her difficult childhood and the “immense shame” she felt along with it:
“Although my childhood was filled with many happy memories, it was also spent in abject poverty. 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 a crowd at the Variety Power Of Women event.
Her desperation led her to take extreme measures:
“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.”
The youngest of six, she was born on her grandmother’s farm (a former plantation) in South Carolina before relocating with her family to Rhode Island. Viola used acting as an escape and despite the challenging circumstances, she excelled academically and began to seriously pursue her dreams while attending Rhode Island College and later the Julliard School in New York City.
Throughout her rise to stardom, Viola has received recognition for her career on stage, winning two Tony Awards. Prior to taking on the role of Annalise Keating, her role as Aibileen Clark in The Help gained her two SAG Awards, as well as nominations for the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. Not to mention, she’s always been good for an inspirational speech or two.
Watch below for her acceptance speech at this year’s SAG Awards and you’ll see what we mean.
And here’s one more, from the 2012 SAG awards. Because we just can’t get enough.
From a hungry child in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to the silver screen and beyond. Continue to inspire, Viola.