Viola Davis spoke many truths Tuesday night at Women in the World Salon.
Talking with journalist Tina Brown, one of the major points she touched on the comparisons that are constantly made between her and famed white actresses.
“I have a career that’s probably comparable to Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Sigourney Weaver. They all came out of Yale, they came out of Juilliard, they came out of NYU. They had the same path as me, and yet I am nowhere near them. Not as far as money, not as far as job opportunities, nowhere close to it.”
She continued, saying, “People say, ‘You’re a black Meryl Streep … We love you. There is no one like you,” she explained. “OK, then if there’s no one like me, you think I’m that, you pay me what I’m worth. As an artist, I want to build the most complicated human being but what I get is the third girl from the left.”
Now, the award-winning actress says she’s done proving herself and doesn’t want young actresses of color to do the same. “It’s gotten to the point (where) I’m no longer doing that. I’m not hustling for my worth. I’m worthy. When I came out of my mom’s womb, I came in worthy. You’ll have a Shailene Woodley, who’s fabulous. And she may have had 37 magazine covers in one year. 37! And then you’ll have someone — a young actress of color who’s on her same level of talent and everything. And she may get four. And there is (this) sense in our culture that you have to be happy with that.”
Davis also spoke at length about her childhood, raised by her abusive father in a “rat-infested” house. “The getting out is precarious. Emotionally I did not get out. I was a rung lower than poor. People see poverty as just a financial state. Poverty seeps into your mind, it seeps into your spirit, because it has side effects. It cost me a lot to be on that stage and share my personal story. The way life works is its got to cost you something. That’s when you know you really made the sacrifices. If you’re dedicated to change, let it cost you something.”
View more about Davis’ talk at People.