“Ma Rainey” Star Viola Davis Talks Community, Humanity and Demanding Her Worth for InStyle Magazine

Posted on November 09, 2020

The one and only Viola Davis is gracing the cover of InStyle’s December issue. The acting great and star of upcoming film “Ma Rainey,” shares her thoughts on community, humanity and demanding her worth within the entertainment industry. When Viola Davis talks, you listen.



On demanding her worth: “I want and I expect to get the same filet mignon that white actresses get. Cooked at the exact temperature. You cannot throw me a bone with a really nice little piece of meat still on it and expect that’s good enough for me. I love my collard greens and all of that, and I know we were given the leftovers. I know how to cook that, but I want a filet mignon. The differences in pay and the lack of access to opportunities are huge. I fully expect changes. I’m trying to lift my hopes up. Even if it takes a little bit of vodka. If we don’t move forward together, then we don’t move forward.”

On the unapologetic way clothing and beauty were approached in Ma Rainey: “Everything attracted me to Ma Rainey, especially the idea that I didn’t feel I could play her. But she also really reminds me of the women I grew up with, all my aunties and relatives, the people who were bigger in stature whom I saw as so beautiful. They never questioned their worth. They had the full makeup, the earrings, the Afros, the wide-leg pants. In white American culture, the idea of classic beauty and confidence has always been associated with extreme thinness, but not in my culture. In the African-American culture, we are in command of our bodies. There’s an unapologetic way that we approach clothing.”

On channeling her authenticity: “I will say that I think my greatest source of strength is my authenticity. If I try to channel some other being, I get lost. That’s when my anxiety level goes up. Growing up in Central Falls [R.I.] as the only kinkyhaired chocolate-brown girl, I always was trying to channel the girls who had the Farrah Fawcett look. It had disastrous results. So the only thing I can do is channel my authenticity. That is really a powerful tool because we spend our entire lives trying to get there. If you are projecting that, that’s what people are attracted to.”

On processing it all and controlling what you can: “In terms of Black Lives Matter, I am who I always am. What’s happening is what has always been happening. We just decided to wake up. How have I been able to process it? I have days when I fail miserably. And that’s when I need my two or three glasses of wine. But I’m trying not to lose hope in humanity. The only thing I can control in life is what I put into it. That’s the only thing I can do with Genesis [her 10-year-old daughter]. Teach her that you still have to be kind, you still have to be empathetic. That that’s going to be a part of your legacy. You have no idea whose life you can shift. And at the same time, even someone who doesn’t share your belief system could be a friend. That is the complexity of life.


The December issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download November 20.


Style Credits:
Cover: Wolk Morais Black and White Houndstooth Suit | Bulgari Jewelry | The Office of Angela Scott Shoes
Image 1: Gucci Ensemble
Image 2: Balmain Suit | YSL Blouse | Uncommon Matters Earrings | Rupert Sanderson Shoes

Styled by Elizabeth Stewart
Hair by Jamika Wilson
Makeup by Sergio Lopez
Nails by Christina Aviles Aude


[Photo Credit: AB+DM for InStyle Magazine]

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