Viola Davis shared her experience dealing with colorism and microaggressions throughout her career. During the Kering Women In Motion conversation at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, Davis said she was even mistaken for a maid by a good friend of hers.
“I had a director who did that to me. He said, ‘Louise!’ I knew him for 10 years, and he called me Louise and I find out that it’s because his maid’s name is Louise,” Davis said. “I was maybe around 30 at the time, so it was a while ago. But what you have to realize is that those micro-aggressions happen all the time.”
When touching on colorism, she pointed out that there’s a lack of actresses with a darker complexion in leading roles on television and streaming services and its intentional.
“That ties into ideology and ethos and mentality, and that’s speaking in the abstract. Why aren’t you hiring a dark skinned woman when she walks in the room and you say she blows you away?,” she asked. “Create space and storytelling for her so when she thrives she’s not thriving despite of her circumstance but thriving because of her circumstance.”
The Help star also reflected about being told she wasn’t beautiful enough or light enough to have leading roles in romantic comedies. She didn’t hold back and said it “really gets on my damn nerves.”
“A lot of it is based in race. It really is,” Davis said about being snubbed for certain roles. “Let’s be honest. If I had my same features and I were five shades lighter, it would just be a little bit different. And if I had blonde hair, blue eyes and even a wide nose, it would be even a little bit different than what it is now. We could talk about colorism, we could talk about race. It pisses me off, and it has broken my heart — on a number of projects, which I won’t name.”
Watch the full discussion below with Viola Davis below.