Last Sunday night, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (I’m a member of both) held the Critics’ Choice Awards. This year, we had an award that brought me to tears: the first-ever #SeeHer award. It’s the result of a campaign started by the Association of National Advertisers and its Alliance for Family Entertainment, and it’s backed by the White House. It’s an effort to eliminate bias against women in advertising and in the media by increasing the “accurate portrayal of girls and women” by 20 percent by 2020.
The award was won by Viola Davis, who was nominated that night for her role in “How to Get Away with Murder” and who won Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Fences.” This woman is beyond accomplished, and she took on an issue that actresses rarely speak about: overcoming the self-consciousness that comes with expectations of beauty.
There were very few dry eyes in the house, at least from my vantage point. We’ve all been through this. We all know the feeling of looking accomplished and still feeling like we have to lose weight or dress differently. She felt it, too, but she overcame it. I just wanted to share the speech with you.
“It’s hard to accept being a role model for women when you’re trying to lose weight. But it’s true. I've always discovered the heart of my characters, I guess, by asking, 'Why?' When I was handed Annalise Keating [on “Murder”], I said, 'She's sexy, she's mysterious,' you know? I'm used to playing women where I've got to gain 40 pounds and wear an apron, so I said, 'Oh God, I've got to lose weight. I've got to learn how to walk like Kerry Washington in heels. You know, I gotta lose my belly.'
“And then I asked myself, 'Well, why do I have to do all of that?’ I truly believe that the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, and I just recently embraced that at 51. I think my strongest power is that at 10 o'clock every Thursday night, I want you to come into my world. I am not going to come into yours. You come into my world and you sit with me, my size, my hue, my age, and you sit and you experience. And I think that's the only power I have as an artist. So I thank you for this award. And I do see her. Just like I see me.”
Viola Davis, you are awesome. We all are.