Last night, Viola Davis made history as the first African American woman to win Outstanding Lead Actress in Drama Series. As people around the nation watched in awe, Davis gave an incredibly inspiring yet thought-provoking speech about breaking racial barriers in Hollywood. Here are 5 empowering life lessons we can all learn from her speech:
Use your platform to speak about social injustice – Davis has a long history of ‘calling out’ Hollywood for racist typecasting. So it should come as no surprise that she used this moment to speak on racial barriers in Hollywood.
“I can’t seem to get over that line,” said Davis. “The only thing that separates women of color from anybody else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there,” Davis said during her acceptance speech in which she quoted Harriet Tubman.
Watch the THR roundtable where both Davis and Taraji P. Henson talk candidly about race, sexism, and aging in Hollywood.
One woman’s shine doesn’t diminish your light – When women support women, amazing things can happen. In fact, women can collectively break through glass ceilings by promoting a culture of support, innovation, and creativity. During Davis’ acceptance speech, she thanked several other actresses of color.
“To the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Megan Goods, to Gabrielle Union… thank you for taking us over that line.”
Build a legacy that will outlive you – The word “branding” is the latest buzzword to hit the business world, but beyond the basics—target audience, logo, website design, social media channels, etc. What is the legacy you are leaving behind? Whether you’re an actress, tech innovator, or janitor—“Be the change you wish to see in the world (Mahatma Gandhi). Share your story. What is the burning belief you have about your life experiences?
As the AP reported, Viola Davis’ story doesn’t end with an Emmy. Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, have started a production company to try to continue erasing that (color) line.
You have the power to redefine what success looks like – Success is subjective. And now more than ever you have the power to define your own rules for success. Explore the world beyond your own backyard, challenge what’s popular, be true to yourself, and live life on your own terms.
“So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people — people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black,” said Davis.
Regardless of how you feel, get up, get dressed, and show up for your life: “It’s been 67 years since a black actress has won an Emmy, then there is certainly a line,” said Davis. Despite not seeing actresses who looked like them in Hollywood, leading ladies—Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis, Taraji, P. Henson, and Gabriel Union, to name a few, have consistently worked hard and forged their own path.