Viola Davis goes natural for the LAT Magazine, talks about poverty & race

Viola Davis takes the cover of the new issue of the Los Angeles Times Magazine. People are talking about the photo shoot because Viola is “natural” in the photos – she’s not wearing a wig or a weave. That’s her real hair – her whole face changes with her real hair, doesn’t it? Anyway, The LAT Mag often features some of the frontrunners for the Oscars, and I do think Viola is a reasonably safe bet for Best Actress. As her Oscar campaign continues, Viola is ensuring that we know how difficult her road has been – and unlike some actresses, I don’t feel like Viola is whining or positioning herself as a victim just for sympathy – I think Viola really wants to talk about how difficult it is for women of color to get work in Hollywood. Viola isn’t just some pretty face, hoping to get “the girl” parts in Michael Bay’s films. She’s a Julliard-educated, two-time Tony Awards-winning actress who wants to be a role model for young women from all walks of life. And you know what? She is. She’s totally a role model. She’s SO amazing. You can read the whole piece here, and here are some highlights:

Viola is a career counselor: “I have so many young people that come to the house I can’t even count. They come to L.A. feeling lost. Some want to be actors, some don’t. They just want to be somebody.”

Viola on slow-burning characters: “Human life is about a culmination of moments, and 99 percent of those are quiet but powerful. I am always interested and intrigued with watching that.” She likes to cite an acting tip credited to David Mamet: “If you’re looking at an actor onstage with a cat, who are you going to look at, the actor or the cat? The cat, because the cat is just being a cat.”

Viola’s childhood: She “came from nothing, came from poverty”—one of six children of a horse groom and a maid raised in the hardscrabble town of Central Falls, Rhode Island. “I never had a phone,” she recalls. She once told Charlie Rose that her shoes “always had holes in them.” Central Falls is still so poor it recently filed for bankruptcy. Its struggling library received a $1,000 cash infusion in November. It came from Viola Davis.

She always wanted to be a stage actress: “Even back when I was 11, I knew that Isabel Sanford from The Jeffersons came from the stage,” Davis says. “I never watched the Oscars, but I watched the Tonys every year. I wanted to be onstage. I wanted to be like Colleen Dewhurst or Jane Alexander—one of those great ladies of the theater, doing Ibsen and Shakespeare.”

Breaking out as a woman of color: “That really is our plight, especially as women of color,” she says. “You can have all the training in the world, come from a respectable background and yet never get that big opportunity that breaks you out—never. You can be in the business for 23 years, which I have been, and suddenly something happens that wakes people up. For me, that was being in a movie with Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman,” Davis says of Doubt. “It makes people realize you’re there. Otherwise you’re that black girl who had a guest or costar role in a TV show here or there.”

She’s grateful: “I don’t feel bitterness,” she insists. But even as a second Oscar campaign awaits for her part in The Help, Davis is not afraid to point out the weaknesses in her industry. Her next target isn’t another lead role. It’s producing, a task she feels she must undertake if she and other black actresses are to get more fulfilling work. Young people need to be mentored to aspire to something fulfilling. “I am doing this out of necessity,” she says. “If I am not the instrument of change, I can meander through this business and be the black woman who always has two or three scenes but with fabulous actors around me.”

Developing projects: She has optioned The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, a sweeping novel about an African-American woman struggling to farm the Badlands in 1917. She is developing a new picture—a thriller with Spencer as a coproducer—but is always on the lookout. “I have a stack of books in mind,” she says. It includes a bit of everything—historical dramas, which Davis loves, but also just plain, good literature. “There are great characters in history whose stories need to be told,” she says. “But also, look at this year’s line-up: Melancholia, Young Adult…Someone just had imagination, put pen to paper and created a [whole] human being. That is what I hope for myself…for a number of black actresses.”

[From The Los Angeles Times Magazine]

I knew Viola’s name before Doubt. I’m not trying to brag or anything, but I remember seeing her in Out of Sight and making a mental note of her name. She only had a few scenes of dark humor – in which she got emotional about a dead dog named Tuffy – but she was awesome, and Steven Soderbergh used her again in Traffic and Solaris. I was just looking through her IMBD – it’s really amazing how consistently she’s worked, and how varied the work is. Basically, she’s been toiling away for more than two decades and now everyone is acting as if she just arrived in Hollywood two years ago. It’s weird, funny and sad. But she’ll get the last laugh if she wins, won’t she?

Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

77 Responses to “Viola Davis goes natural for the LAT Magazine, talks about poverty & race”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. marge says:


  2. Rose says:

    I remember that character in Out of Sight too, wow, would never have guessed it was the same lady. Everyone’s great in that film. She looks stunning in those pix up there.

  3. Vanden says:

    She. Looks. AMAZING.

  4. emma says:

    She looks like a model when she wears her hair like that and so much younger. I think she should wear her hair like that more often and save the wigs for movie roles. However, perhaps wigs are easier to maintain and more convenient.

    • Annaloo says:

      Yes, wigs are easy to maintain and convenient… both as an item and, sadly, as an image. I love that you love her look, Emma! Too bad more people do not feel this way or we would see many more black actresses (or any one else who was not born with silken straight tresses) embracing their natural hair …

      but here is to hope… times & thoughts are changing, let’s hope Hollywood (and the media that covers it– Vanity Fair *cough*) catches up.

      • Seagulls says:

        Whenever I see natural hair, it just looks amazing. My friend let her hair go natural and it’s just so pretty.

      • SweetLou says:

        I’ve been wearing weaves for over 7 yrs, none stop. And i’ve been thinking of just going natural this year. I’m a little terrified of if it would suit the shape of my head. She just inspired me to give it a try 🙂

      • RocketMerry says:

        First of all, she’s a stunning, drop dead gorgeous woman. Lovely attitude, too.
        Secondly, I’m not familiar with this hair issue, I usually see black women with really curly hair or very small braids. Is it common to wear wigs for African Americans? Is it a trend? I don’t think it is here in Europe.

      • OriginalTiffany says:

        She is gorgeous, and I LOVE the natural look on black women. I wish more had it, highlights their beautiful faces and skin.
        I think it is more prevalent in the US than in Europe, having livd in both.

    • Camille (The original) says:

      I agree. I think she looks beautiful and so much younger!

  5. Jessica says:

    Wow. She is GORGEOUS. Truly stunning. I love the way she looks like this.

  6. SG says:

    I want everything she’s wearing in this shoot. God, she looks great.

  7. Tapioca says:

    I don’t have much love for The Help but she was great in it, even if the Oscar she really should have won was for Doubt – she’s not on screen very long but she’s amazeballs and wiped the floor with Penelope Cruz that year.

    It’s also a great to know that when she wins her Oscar in 19 days time she’s going to use her new-found cachet behind the scenes instead of making a excruciating comic-book movie – Charlize & Halle, I’m looking at you!

    • CookieJar says:

      My thoughts exactly. It is so refreshing and just further proves how she is more worthy of an award that gives such name recognition(than Clooney, Pitt, Mara, Williams). I hope she will become a real powerhouse in HW, because I think it would benefit the whole industry.
      Also, these pictures are so beautiful. I love looking at them.

    • demian bichir says:

      Tapioca, i agree with u 100%. I haven’t seen the help and i don’t have any intention to do so.
      It goes against my principles.
      So i wasn’t really familiar with her work and her personnality.
      The revelation was when i was watching those THR interviews.
      Charlize (was flirting with FASSY the whole time),FASSY(was red like a tomatoe),THE CLOWN( told TILDA to F*OFF!),Tilda(i’ll never forget the look on her face when he said that to her!!!),Plummer(he said i’ll never work again with that BORING MALICK),but VIOLA stole the show with her natural charisma.

      I said to myself she’s a STAR!!!

      • I Choose Me says:

        Fassbender told Swinton to Eff off?! Do you know why? What was the context of the conversation? Dish demian, pretty please.

      • Camille (The original) says:

        @I Choose Me: I think who damian was calling ‘the clown’ was George Clooney (who is indeed a clown..).

      • demian bichir says:

        The Clown = G-g-george (or jorge?)CLOONEY

      • OriginalTiffany says:

        Are those posters a joke? Seriously.
        That can’t be correct. The book was so good and that really seems to go against what the book’s meaning. I’m appalled. Has to be a joke.

      • author says:

        what interview was this for The Holly wood Reporter?? When did this happen is there a link?

  8. Jackie says:

    great pics. educated, bright, articulate…what a breath of fresh air.

  9. Ms. Candy says:

    She is beautiful indeed. She is truly inspiring

  10. k says:

    Love it. She’s one of a kind.

  11. Dorothy#1 says:

    She looks so much younger with her own hair. Beautiful.

  12. PrettyTarheel says:

    Question for the WOC out there-why does Viola Davis go with a wig or weave over this look? Is it the whole “wigs/weaves give WOC the opportunity to have ‘whiter’ hair, therefore fit in better under Hollywood’s version of pretty?” Or is it simply easier to maintain? Personal choice?
    I can’t get over how young and stunning she is-I feel her other hairstyles age her. I just want to understand the perspective.

    • jinni says:

      The answer is probably a little bit of everything you mentioned.

    • Heine says:

      First, gotta say Viola looks AMAZING with her natural hair and her face is just gorgeous. Its stunning.

      Anyway, about your query. Black actresses typically wear weaves and wigs to protect their natural hair from all the damage it would go through in order to look straight-flat ironing, chemical relaxers, that kind of thing. Black hair tends to be a bit more brittle and dry and breaks off if heavily tampered with.

      Now my hair is quite oily (strange) so I was able to get away with doing all kinds of stuff to it without it breaking off for years. Then I grew out my natural hair from a relaxer and it’s frankly much easier this way.

      But then you get into the whole ‘good hair’ nonsense, with linked hair being ‘bad’. My own mother said that I like having my hair natural because it’s intensely curly instead of kinky.

      Your question has a lot of answers, basically. No two black women feel the same way about their hair nor about how others should do their hair. There is a lot of cultural crazy that goes into why black women cover their natural hair.

  13. lambchops says:

    I love it when black women pull of this kind of hair. It looks so stunning.

  14. Maritza says:

    She should go natural more often, she looks so much prettier. The photos are beautiful.

  15. Nanz says:

    Breathtaking – and it’s not just her outer beauty.

  16. .D. says:

    I’m rooting for her, though I’m sorry that if she does win, she will probably get more crap than she’s already gotten for playing a maid in a story that some people find problematic.

    And she should already have an Oscar for the amazing work she did in Doubt.

  17. taylor says:

    ITA with everyone: she looks absolutely stunning. I also hope she wins an Oscar because of WHO she is, but yeah, winning for The Help, sort of sucks.

  18. normades says:

    Fab fab fab….I hope she gets the Oscar.

  19. salamanca says:

    Big WOW. She’s beautiful.

  20. Suzy (from Ontario, Canada) says:

    She looks fabulous…especially that second shot with the sunglasses and heels. I love it!!

    She sounds like a very intelligent, thoughtful and compassionate person.

  21. Delta Juliet says:

    Absolutely stunning….she is a gorgeous woman!

  22. Aiobhan says:

    I have to be honest and say that I absolutely hated the Help and refuse to read the book that it is based on. Having said that I love her and after reading that article want her to win s bad it is not even funny. As a WOC and a woman in general I want to see everything that she wants to do to be accomplished so that more people can see the awesomeness that she so effortlessly emotes.

    In response to the question about about natural hair vs. weaves. I cannot add anything to the conversation that has not already been said but it is hard to keep up either way. I had a perm from the time that I was 5 to about 15 and have kept it natural since then. I prefer the natural way but I still need to wash it every other week and condition and everything else. The up keep is hard either way but I just do not want to get another perm. Wigs look fun though!

    • MST says:

      My mother and grandmother were “the help” and listening to their stories — of being paid in old clothing when they needed money to buy FOOD, for example –was enough for me not to want to see the movie or read the book. I have mixed feelings about Ms. Davis winning for playing a maid — feels like same ish, differet century — but it helps her win more leverage in “liberal” Hollywood, well, more power to her.

      I have worn my hair natural for five years, and I don’t think its hard to keep up. Contrast keeping it conditioned and clean and braiding it every night with getting a perm and going for a touchup every six weeks, and natural hair wins hands down!

      However, I think that every woman should be able to wear her hair the way she wants, whether its permed, natural, weaved, or shaved off. It’s YOUR friggin’ hair!

      • Aiobhan says:

        I am one of the laziest people in the world who hates doing her hair. It sounds easy in theory and takes around 2 hours total but I still hate doing it. lol.

        I want her to actually accomplish what Oprah tried to do: bring quality black/non-white cinema to the forefront. Not just because it is has minority characters but because I want quality movies in general. I am tired of ill-conceived crap being passed off as good movies and over hyped English language “interpretations” instead of producing new content. Yep, that is an obvious dig at DF.

    • demian bichir says:

      Agreed!You need to be the new PREZ of HW.

  23. NM6804 says:

    Ugh, she’s so gorgeous and talented it’s sickening :). Add very smart and responsible to that and you have a person that is seemingly not affected by Hollywood’s fakeness. She’s the real thing and she stands for something which is very rare. I hope she gets that Oscar because then people will hopefully see more of her and read her interviews which are very insightful.

    Sidenote: Weave does change a face. When I wear a weave, people tell me to not go back natural because I’m more beautiful with it. It was so bad that it made me scared whenever I wanted to take out my weave because I thought that people would find me ugly and talk about getting a weave again. Luckily, I grew out of that and learnt you can do a lot with natural hair too and that my hair is my concern and beautiful in every way. Look at Davis, she rocks it!

    EDIT: the styling in this shoot is crazy!

  24. lucy2 says:

    She’s lovely, inside and out.
    I love that she’s helpful to others, and wants to step up and produce too. She seems to be an amazing woman, and definitely an excellent role model for all.

  25. Girl says:

    Her face is just gorgeous.

    This is the kind of thing that really pisses me off an industry that is always preaches about tolerance. They are horribly unfair to actors who are not white. Even less so to actresses. Forget about someone who isn’t conventionally beautiful (for the most part, there are a few exceptions). That description typically means white ango people.

  26. Ahot says:

    Thanks for this article CB. Such are the reasons why i love this site, because it´s not always about mindless gossip.
    Before this shoot i never knew how truly beautiful she is, *inside & out*. New violaloonie here! 🙂

  27. Jordan says:

    Amazing and inspiring woman.

  28. lolas says:


  29. WTF says:

    That third photograph better get her in People’s 50 most beautiful People or I’m going to be so pi$$ed.

    I just echo everyone’s comments; beautiful, smart, fabulous. And as a woman of color who also happens to be natural – love it.

  30. lrm says:

    well, i’m just gonna say this: There are not as many films about race or historical poverty. I mean, titanic about class issues, that Crash oscar upset….honestly, ppl want to see action or romantic comedy. And then it seems like people of color, or women, or any actor, feel like they are being pidgeon holed into parts/characters. but truth is, viola, don’t produce some specific story about sme amazing person you love, who is historically important.

    Make something edgy, or hilarious, or over the top action. That is how to create more roles for women over 40, and/or black women.

    I may not agree with it, but it is the money making reality of film. Then again, if money is not the focus, then you have to let go of recognition, but unfortunately,the two go hand in hand. Making money gives you more credibility in hollywood. Then you go and do theater on the side.

    She is gorgeous, smart and fabulous.

    I like what she said at the newsweek roundtables with clooney,c harlize, et all…she said ‘well, black people are 12% of the population in america, and that’s not the target demographic for movie makers’.
    When I lived in east africa, one of my african classmates referred to the US as similar to s africa and apartheid. My Iranian [but had been living in the US prior] professor said to the student, by way of writing on the blackboard, that the US population consisted of this % and that %, race and ethnicity wise. He went on to say it’s quite different than south africa. my point is: if people want equal representation, then what do the numbers look like, including in films? I long for the day-who knows how long, prob. not in my lifetime-when it will simply be ‘a good actor or actress’, same with affirmative action. That we are looking for quality, in any field.

    Anyway, there will always be talented actors, male, female any color, who never get work or have to give up their dream.

  31. KJ says:

    I haven’t seen The Help and have no intentions of doing so, but I’ve watched quite a few of Viola Davis’ performances throughout the years. She’s had the same trouble that a lot of black performers had who work consistently but never find ‘fame’ – she’s ubiquitous. She’s in so much, and she’s always phenomenal, but few people knew her name before all this. I’m so happy she’s getting all this adulation. Even if it’s for The Help, which I have my own qualms with as a woman of color. The fact is people are taking notice more than ever. And it’s awesome. If anyone deserves it, it’s Viola Davis. She paid her dues, she’s worked diligently, and always turns in a top notch performance. She’s a model of patience and strength.

    Also, I have to say, sans weave/wig, she looks younger! Maybe its because short hair forces me to focus just on the face, because I really took notice of just how incredible her face is. The structure of it is unbelievable.

  32. Psyren says:

    Love her look, her attitude, her everything. She is utterly FABULOUS!

  33. JD says:

    Sorry to say I’ve never heard of her until now, but I plan to find out more soon.

    Lovely woman.

  34. alibeebee says:

    she’s exquisite.. i love her natural hair.. i wear my hair natural too.. it’s ringlet curls that i straightened for years and then said to hell with it. her skin is like dark velvet.. she looks lovely! and real

  35. danielle says:

    Whoa – she looks great in these pics – alot younger for some reason…

  36. I Choose Me says:

    Love this look with her natural hair. Then I read her interview and now I’m a fan for life.

  37. MST says:

    In the last picture she reminds me a little of Alek Wek, the Sudanese model.

  38. yoyo says:


    I get soooo thoroughly annoyed when I see the Beyonce L’Oreal commercials for her fake blond hair, makes me sick.

    I’m not saying that you can’t have extensions/weaves if you want , I find it offensive that it has become this norm for black women, like having your hair natural is either retro, political or shameful. Can’t your natural hair be just… natural, no message?! It’s ridiculous! This started in America and is slowly starting to spread.

    In Europe, where most black folks are 1st or 2 nd generation African immigrants the ladies have recently started spending a fortune on weaves and wigs much more than before. You still see a majoority of them keeping their hair natural though, I hope the contagion doesnt spread…what would people think if a majority of caucasian women started wearing afro wigs as an imposed fashion norm! It would be ridiculous IMHO.

    What a lot of African ladies do here though is shave of their eyebrows and have them drawn in with pencil, which shocked my african-american cousin -lol- I don’t know it seems to be the fashion here for some reason. Women of Carribean descent don’t do that just African ones and not all. I don’t know what country(s)/ethny(s) is really into this but it is very prevalent.

    • MST says:

      I once had my hair in a very short natural — I mean, maybe an inch long –and for some reason many people thought I was gay, which I’m not.

  39. aprayerforthewildatheart says:

    These photos are stunning. Her features are perfectly symmetrical, and OMG that body!! I can NOT believe this woman is 45 Gah!

    On another note, I appreciate her comments on the dearth of roles for women of color, women of a certain age, and women in general. It’s important, true, and should be discussed because inequality in the industry exists on so many levels.

  40. Bee says:

    Every other week is not the norm. sheesh
    I’m natural, its easy. I shampoo every Sunday and wash with conditioner every other day.

  41. Nan209 says:

    I love watching actresses like her. There is a strong center that reaches out to you. There are few who have that ability like Davis and strangely the ones who seem to convey that strong center are African American. It’s the kind of strength you see after someone has climbed the mountain and now knows who they are, what they want and how to move through the world. They use the journey up the mountain to show all sides of their characters. I simply love watching that kind soul.

    • demian bichir says:

      You’re deep I love it.She’s really inspiring and a true star.
      They need to give her the role of Minnie MADIKIZELA-MANDELA because she truly deserves it.

  42. JuliaDomna says:

    She is soo pretty. Why did her beauty not come through in The Help? That movie pissed me off, btw.

  43. the original bellaluna says:

    Didn’t read it, but she looks BEAUTIFUL.

  44. TheWayItGoes says:

    I’m honestly OVERJOYED someone as gifted and down to earth as Ms. Davis is getting her just due.

    She looks absolutely STUNNING in this shoot. Kudos to the stylists and editors for going with such a gorgeous look for Ms. Davis.

    I hope after she wins that she’s able to parlay her success and momentum into a Meryl-like trajectory where she’ll continue to play a variety of characters with depth.

  45. mememe says:


  46. lrach73 says:

    She looks amazing with her natural hair. Talk about drawing attention to her fabulous eyes and skin!! Wow! Reminds me a little of when Solange (isn’t that Beyonce’s little sister?) went natural. She too was stunning. Not everyone can pull off short-short hair, but there are those that not only pull it off but look amazing in the process.

  47. BlowOutTheCandle says:

    Stunning! These photos are gorgeous! Viola is gorgeous!

  48. Michelle says:

    She is very beautiful.

  49. Zoe says:

    OK…I need to admit it, I have a crush on Viola.

  50. Funnylilou says:

    She is a good actress but nominated for “the help” which is not oscar worthy at all, she will not win the oscar for that it will be a joke because the other women in the best actress category are all in very powerful movies and are giving striking performances with a deep and incredible transformation of themselves (Meryl Streep as Margareth Thatcher, Glenne close with an incredible performance playing a butcher, so a woman hiding herself as a man and Michelle Williams as a very believable Marilyn)
    Her acting if you compare her to these ladies is actually the less powerful for this time, so she would not win I think, she should have won for doubt that would have been very acclaiming!

  51. It is ME!! says:

    She should never wear a wig or a weave ever again. Her natural hair makes her look EVEN MORE beautiful than she usually does!!

    Seriously, she just has a face that can rock short hair and it brings out every stunning feature. Those eyes, those lips, those cheek bones, that skin! Way to go, Viola!!

  52. Cindy says:

    I would like to see more pictures of her with her natural hair. She is one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. She can rock a wig though….!