Viola Davis Talks Black Sisterhood And Comradery Amid Sexual Assault Scandals: “You Either Care Or You Don’t Care”
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Viola Davis as part of Vaseline’s promotion of their newest product, Cocoa Radiant Body Butter, a moisturizing cream so lightweight and nourishing it’s even convinced me to forgo some of my ashy ways. In my conversation with Davis, however, the brand ambassador for Vaseline, I was taugh a lesson about letting go of some other things that are far less tangible. She talked to me about embracing vulnerability and connecting with other women in this time of unapologetic Blackness and how things will only change if we truly want them to. Read below to hear what the 52-year-old actress who is the only Black woman to be nominated for three Academy Awards, one of which she won, had to say about sisterhood, accepting your true self, and being the change you want to see.
We’ve seen such a growing sisterhood among Black woman in Hollywood over the past couple years, is that something that’s always been there or have certain societal changes sparked a change?
I think the social climate has definitely dictated it because I think we recognize that we need each other and it’s kind of a them against us mentality. I think that a lot of Black actresses like Gabrielle Union, like Tracee Ellis Ross, like Taraji P. Henson, like Octavia Spencer, and the list goes on and on, they’re making themselves known. They’re realizing that I can either wait, I can allow someone to define me, or I can do it myself. And now we’re doing it ourselves. We’re in the non-apologetic phase and I love those women by the way. I just have a great love for each and every one of them.
Gabrielle Union recently posted a video talking about her sexual assault and articulated it so beautifully — I love when people lead in with a real truth about themselves, when it’s something that could really cost them something. When we share our vulnerability, what we’re sharing is ourselves with the world and it’s through that that you find your tribe. Because then the other person on the receiving end sees that and they’ll say “me too” and you have a connection. That’s what’s happening with all of these women. They have the strength and the conviction to own their stories and own their authentic selves and they’re putting it out there no holds barred and I think that’s where the sisterhood is coming from.
Speaking of “Me too,” do you think the Harvey Weinstein scandal and subsequent sexual assault cases involving celebrities will spark real change in Hollywood?
Things will change if people want it to change. We have to be the change. If it really matters to you, if it really does matter, then you’ll make the change. You won’t make it a hashtag and it won’t change as soon as something different comes into the news to take its place. Human pain and suffering is not about a hashtag and not about a trending topic and it’s not a part of the Nielsen ratings; it’s about the human condition. The people who are on the other side of the sexual assault are people who need healing their entire lives. It’s like Gabrielle said in her video, she was Nicki when she was raped and she died, Nicki died that day; who was born was Gabrielle. I want people to understand that when there is trauma in someone’s life, there’s is a death. And there’s a compartmentalization that happens that then causes addiction, it causes suicide, it causes body dysmorphic issues, it causes all of these problems and it is up to us to take that very personally and a lot of us are included in that equation. You either care or you don’t care. Either you are the change you want to see or you’re not. It’s that simple.
You talk so much these days about coming to accept who you are as a woman, how did you get to that place?
I still have issues; I really do. But one of the things I always say is my coming into myself and coming to faith just started with a series of staggers, just staggers where you leap from one leap pad to the next. That first leap pad held you up, gave you strength until the next leap pad came along and that leap pad could be in the form of a person who came along and gave you great advice, someone who held you up, a friend. That person could be your daughter, my 7-year-old daughter, that thing could’ve been my marriage, but it held me up until I could go to the next leap pad that held me up and I could grow from that.
What are three things you feel like you have to have to be your best self?
Vaseline helps; I have so many jars under my cabinet, but also essential oil. It’s called chill pill, so it’s lavender but a combination — that and pillow potion. Also, my rose cream perfume. I mix it with the essential oil and I can use it as deodorant.
How did it feel to get the news that you would be the face of such an iconic beauty brand as an African American woman and mother to a Black daughter?
That’s how it felt, that I was a part of an iconic beauty brand and something that’s tried and true, something that is really rooted in the African American community. This product, the Vaseline Cocoa Radiant Body Butter has 100% shea butter, 100% cocoa butter, and Vaseline jelly, c’mon now? I know the brand and I feel, in general, people are migrating back to what’s tried and true.