Viola Davis Blames Hollywood for Its Own Lack of Diversity

Davis to Hollywood: "Real black women can act too."


Last night the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards happened. Unlike the Golden Globes or the Oscars, which are run by “governing bodies,” the SAGs determine their winners via votes cast by the actors and actresses of the screens big and small.

Call it the “FUBU Awards.”

While the usual suspects won Best in Show, the night was easily stolen by the ridiculously talented Viola Davis of The Help, who won for her role in How to Get Away With Murder. What did she do to earn headlines? She called out Hollywood for the PR problem that never disappears: where are all the leading roles for black actors?

Her acceptance speech for best leading actresses in a TV drama began with a shout out to Shonda Rhimes, the women who created that show (and a couple of others you may know); Davis thanked Rhimes for sticking to the conviction “that a sexualized, messy, mysterious woman could be a 49-year-old, dark-skinned, African-American woman who looks like me.”

The crux of her speech was to hold up a mirror and turn it in Hollywood’s direction to remind the industry how “real” black women look. Davis and her contemporaries have been dealing with the problem highlighted in her speech for a while, but we hope that her contribution will inspire some communications pros to sit up, pay attention, and act.

Her award was much deserved because her acting is remarkable, but her words last night were transparent, serious, real, and definitely worth a listen.

Listen — and think about what you would do if you were in control of the Hollywood Hills’s PR efforts.

Publish date: January 26, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT