Viola Davis Asked To Rock Her Natural Hair For Widows: “You’re Always Taught As A Person Of Color To Not Like Your Hair”
Viola Davis is one of the most talented and dynamic actresses in all of Hollywood, but unfortunately, despite her continued brush with success she still has to fight the battles of beauty and equality for black women in an industry that is infamous for valuing them as less than. In a recent interview, she opens up about how she hopes to “fix” Hollywood of its bias and more.
This November, audiences are in for a real treat when Viola Davis graces the screen in the crime-thriller Widows from 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen. The film is unlike any other role she’s had—and based on the trailer she’s stepped into the role of badass effortlessly. In a recent in-depth interview with Variety, she gets candid about wearing her natural hair in Widows, the gender pay gap for actresses and Hollywood’s inclusivity.
On the decision to have her Widows character Veronica Rawlins wear natural hair in the film, Davis said she asked McQueen about the possibility and was pleasantly surprised that he was very encouraging of her rocking her natural hair in all its glory for the film.
“I said, ‘Your own hair is beautiful — just wear it that way,’” recalls McQueen. “Veronica is a wash-and-go kind of girl.” Davis acknowledged the choice to appear on-screen in close-cropped, curly hair was liberating and represented an important social statement. “You’re always taught as a person of color to not like your hair,” she says. “The kinkier it is, the so-called nappier it is, the uglier it is.”
McQueen wanted Davis to know that his goal was to reflect reality. Noting that more women looked like her, with dark skin and natural hair, than like the artificial and idealized images of female beauty that Hollywood frequently projects.
Davis is committed to showing the beauty of black women from all color spectrums onscreen. “We’re into a zeitgeist where people are fighting for their space to be seen,” she says. “People have to know that there are different types of women of color. We’re not all Foxy Brown. We’re not all brown or light-skinned beauties with a big Afro. We have the girl next door. We have the older, dark-skinned, natural-haired woman.”
Davis also adds that not only is the beauty of black women in question in Hollywood, so are the types of roles they should play as well. She reveals that, unsurprisingly, her role in Widows is generally meant for a white actress instead of a black one. “People try to be too nice with women,” suggests Davis. “They keep them pretty. They keep them likable. They cater to male fantasies. They cater to the male gaze. This film didn’t do that.”
Davis then delves into one of the most hot-button issues in Hollywood right now, the large gender pay gap. However, she is quick to point out that while white actresses are paid significantly less than their male counterparts, actresses of color’s salaries are less than both white men and white women—by a large margin. “There are no percentages to show the difference,” says Davis. “It’s vast. Hispanic women, Asian women, black women, we don’t get paid what Caucasian women get paid. We just don’t. … We have the talent. It’s the opportunity that we’re lacking.”
Davis has an idea of how true change can happen in Hollywood, but she stresses that it won’t be possible unless things become far more inclusive than they are now. “We’re not even invited to the table,” she says. “I go to a lot of women’s events here in Hollywood, and they’re filled with female CEOs, producers and executives, but I’m one of maybe five or six people of color in the room.”
Elsewhere in the interview, she discussed her love and admiration for both Cicely Tyson and Aretha Franklin, and her poverty-stricken childhood. This fall is a big one for Davis, as she stars in the aforementioned Widows, hitting theaters November 16 and the season five premiere of her hit ABC drama How To Get Away With Murder on September 27 at 10PM.