Viola Davis: Stop referring to black women as ‘angry, sassy, scary or soulful’


As we all know, Viola Davis is everything. She’s smart, she’s cool, she’s beautiful, she is profoundly talented and she is hands-down a great interview. At some point – I think around her Oscar campaign for The Help – Viola just decided to stop sugarcoating everything. When she gives interviews now, she talks about the Real Truths of being a woman of color in in Hollywood, about racism,her childhood poverty and her naked ambition to play big, important roles. Viola gave a great interview to New York Magazine this week – this is her first interview since the whole New York Times/angry-black-woman BS hit the fan two weeks ago. The NYT later issued a half-assed apology about the article, but watch Viola cut ‘em down to size.

Her first starring role in How To Get Away With Murder: “People are always sending me pictures of the poster that’s everywhere. I see responsibility when I see those posters. I see pressure. I’m aware that my booty is on the line.”

The “angry black woman” NYT piece: Davis says she finds the term “angry” as a descriptor for African-­American women to be “very offensive, as is ‘sassy,’ as is ‘soulful.’ We’ve used them enough. It’s time to bury them in the racial-history graveyard. My feeling about the article is it’s a reflection of how we view women of color, what adjectives we use to describe them—as scary, as angry, as unattractive. I think that people are tired of it.”

Being called “older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful”: “There is no one who would compare Glenn Close to Julianna Margulies, Zooey Deschanel to Lena Dunham. They just wouldn’t. They do that with me and Kerry because we’re both African-Americans and we’re both in Shonda Rhimes shows. But they wouldn’t compare me to Ellen Pompeo. Because Ellen Pompeo is white.”

Fear of failure: “I have a certain level of fear about How to Get Away. Fear of failure. I say this with the utmost humility. I was ready to be the show. I was ready to step into my power as an actress.”

Advice from Kerry Washington: “Kerry said, ‘You’re going to be tired.’ And she said that on your one day off, they’re gonna schedule a photo shoot. She said, ‘Viola, you’re good, you’ve got it. You did theater, you got the theater spirit in you.’ For some reason that clicked. Because you have to trust that you know what you’re doing. You have to trust your experience.”

Her poverty-stricken childhood: “[There was] a lot of violence in the family. Poverty does that to you. I was very shameful growing up. I felt like I was in the hole, and you need something to pull you out of the hole.”

Performing as a child: “There’s something about hearing the applause, because it’s validation. When you feel like you’re living on the periphery, validation means a lot.”

She’s less concerned about her appearance: She used to wear wigs everywhere, from the gym to her beloved Jacuzzi. “I was so desperate for people to think that I was beautiful,” she says, but now she exposes her natural hair.

[From Vulture]

Viola makes me ache. I’m serious. I love her, I love the way she acknowledges her own need for validation and how that stems from her childhood. I love this admission: “I was so desperate for people to think that I was beautiful.” Girl, you are beautiful!!!

As for her comments about the NYT piece… I find it interesting that she lists the descriptors that need to stop (angry, scary, unattractive, sassy, soulful) by saying “people are tired of it.” She doesn’t give some long-winded diatribe, it’s just… we’re tired. It’s 2014. Stop saying that black women are angry, scary, less classically beautiful, sassy, etc. Enough.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

Related stories

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

236 Responses to “Viola Davis: Stop referring to black women as ‘angry, sassy, scary or soulful’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Amal says:

    She’s right. However, POC women should stop referring to all white women as “basic.”

    • Blythe says:

      Come again? How often is it that POC call ALL white women “basic”? Anyone can be “basic”. What are you talking about? It’s not something exclusive to white women, but the terms “sassy, angry, scary, and soulful” are used frequently when describing black female women and the characters they play in film and television.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        People on here use the term “basic white woman” all the time to describe someone who is thought of as beautiful but is really just average. The implication is that they wouldn’t be thought of as beautiful if they weren’t white. I’m not saying it’s the same thing, but it’s a thing.

      • Kitten says:

        Yeah, it’s a thing, usually presented in the context of “another basic, bland, interchangeable white woman”.
        It’s not the same thing as what Viola’s talking about, but it’s annoying.

        Viola’s awesome. I love how honest and open she was in her response to that awful NYT piece. Girl just shut it down like “NO”. She brought up some amazing points regarding racial stereotypes in the media and she’s right about people’s need to compare one black actress to another.

      • Keisha says:

        Who said anything about ALL? SOME journalists have referred to black women as “angry,” not ALL of them have. SOME people online have referred to white women as “basic.” It’s the same basic principle–labeling a group with a derogatory term.

      • MissTrial says:


        Your hostility is noted and changes nothing . It isn’t relevant to a discussion about Black women being labeled as X or Y. It would be relevant to a discussion about White women being labeled as basic or X or Y. This thread is not about White women being labeled at all. Rather it is noted that they are not labeled or lumped together.

        Maybe you should work on your civility skills . My reading comp is fine.

      • Jaded says:

        Keisha: it’s about rampant typecasting in Hollywood using obviously race-oriented descriptives. If I were black I would find it offensive and alienating. She and other black actresses have faced many barriers that white women don’t in their quest to garner roles that don’t quarantine them in the “angry black woman” or “sassy black woman” stereotype.

        And please tone down the aggressive use of capitals, it’s really off-putting.

      • andypandy says:

        Clearly you missed the NYT article about all the basic white women In Hollywood

      • Betty says:

        When I hear the word “basic,” I think about the white female rapper Kreayshawn. She’s the one I first heard using the word. The blacks and Latinas I know do not routinely use that word to refer to white women. Additionally, words such as “angry” and “sassy” have real-word implications. The word “basic” hardly carries the same weight.
        In the workplace, I go out of my way not to raise my voice or do anything that will allow people to easily label me as belligerent. Yet, I am still thought of as a “black girl with an attitude” whenever I question something or raise concerns. And mind you, I do this very rarely, about three times in the past year. The message I get as a black woman is that I am not allowed to question the power structure and if I do, I am an “angry black woman.” Meanwhile, my white heterosexual coworkers are allowed to rant, rave, curse, use extreme sarcasm, etc., and they are never thought of as “angry.” I’m glad Viola is pushing back. It’s time to push back against the racist/sexist nonsense.

      • Onthedownlow says:

        Why are you guys feeding the troll. Amal is the same poster who said Blu looks just like Jay poor kid.

        For those on here defending Amal read her comment again. She didn’t say people on C/B call White women basic, she said people of color call White women basic. That’s a general ization. How many people of color on C/B that you know of have called White women basic?

      • Brionne says:

        Every AMAL I have ever had the pleasure of meeting through work or school, is not white. I’ve met 2 Egyptian Amals, 1 Jordanian, and 1 Ethiopian Amal. Add to this list George Clooney’s new wife, Amal Alamuddin who is also not white. I find the comment strange. What “people of color” has Amal actually witnessed speaking in this way?

      • G. says:

        Basic is not the same level basic women still get jobs. Their stereotypes don’t Barr them from various societal activities. The stereotypes surrounding black women do.

      • Charlie says:

        Amal Alamuddin is white.

        And let’s not pretend “basic white woman” is on the same level as “angry black woman”.

    • Dolce crema says:

      Also, oatmeal. These are only said about white ppl. Not cool

      • Blythe says:

        Really? Please inform me of the history of white women being called “oatmeal” or “basic”. As if white women themselves do not refer to Blake Lively as “vanilla” on here. Do less.

      • Keisha says:

        Blythe is new to the internet. White women are called these terms all over the place.

      • QQ says:

        Bwahahha I just came here to say Blythe is gonna be in My crew cause of

        “DO LESS”

        This and Fappuccino Grande are my new things I must incorporate unto my daily lexicon

      • OriginalTessa says:

        I think it’s just the broad strokes we’re all painted with, and how white women are painted with some strokes that we don’t like either. I wouldn’t mind being called sassy. But obviously I don’t get why that’s hurtful. I think there’s a way to have a discussion about this in a way that’s open and honest and informative, and not argumentative. We can teach each other how to be better, and not have it be a fight.

      • Kitten says:

        +1, OriginalTessa.

      • uninspired username says:


        “I wouldn’t mind being called sassy. But obviously I don’t get why that’s hurtful.”

        “Sassy” doesn’t have the same context for white women.

      • Blythe says:

        White women are called “basic” and “oatmeal” “all over the place”, Keisha? Really? Tell me more. Tell me how those terms affect white female identity in their personal and professional lives.

        And I was born in 1996. The Internet was always here for me, girl! How about you?

      • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:


        We should go bowling together. You’ll win because I’ve only done it once and…I have other qualities.

      • Elle Kaye says:

        I can understand her getting upset about being marginalized. There are people who seem to LOVE dismissing the thoughts and feelings of women.

        I am a blonde woman, and get tired of seeing the dumb blonde stereotype perpetuated in society. When I ask that a person not make those jokes, then I’m looked at as sensitive or needing a sense of humor. Perhaps it is simply the fact that I don’t find insulting people all that funny. Call me kooky.

        Women are more than these antiquated stereotypes that should have been thrown out years ago.

    • MissTrial says:

      POC call white women basic? Not sure how that is relevant to Viola Davis or this story…

      Also: I wish people would stop using ” attitude” when they talk of Black women, it is a code word. Same with ” ghetto” to describe a full backside.

      Viola Davis is a great actress and watchable. Aside: Something about how she moves reminds me of Glenn Close ( in Damages) that tough, purposeful stride. Plus , I really admire her candor.

      • Keisha says:

        You’re “not sure”? Maybe you should work on your reading comprehension then. Viola is upset that some journalists call black women “angry.” White women have the same right to be upset when people online refer to them as “basic” or “vanilla.”

      • Greyson says:

        I agree with MissTrial. This isn’t relevant to the article at all.

      • Grant says:

        Viola is talking about terms that are associated with POC that should no longer be used. There are plenty of terms associated with white people that should not be used either. Viola opened the door to conversation on this topic. It’s completely relevant.

      • uninspired username says:

        “White women have the same right to be upset when people online refer to them as “basic” or “vanilla.””

        Translation: I don’t care about historical context.

      • Bob says:

        Grant, that’s a reductive interpretation of relevance. Viola opened the door to a conversation about how the media/society label black women. If your first instinct is to start talking about labels applied to white women, then you’re being dismissive of Viola’s stated concerns, not building on the conversation. It’s generally a very bad idea to use the problems black women face as a jumping off point to discuss the grievances of white women. Just because something is logically similar doesn’t mean it’s relevant.

        We all have complaints. We all have things we hate about the way society labels and restricts us. But the complaints of some of us (hello, fellow middle class white ladies) get a lot more attention in general and it is exceptionally poor form to try and crowd out those rare moments when a black woman gets some attention to speak her mind.

      • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:

        We can’t say anything without someone telling us to shut up or that we deserve what we get, even though those things don’t exist, right? Do you see why black women created womanism? Do you see what misogynoir is? This right here. It’s human to want validation but if you’re ‘certain people’, learn early that it’s a fool’s errand. I was having a conversation a few days ago with someone who asked me what womanism is and all she could do was belittle the name.

        I don’t think that this thread is veering away from Viola, it’s proving her right. Man alive.

        ‘Are you–’angry’?’
        ‘No, I’m mad!’

        Still funny almost 30 years later. Not Gordon Gartrelle or ‘Jammin’ on the one’ (whatever that is) funny, but good stuff, nonetheless.

      • Marianne says:

        About the whole vanilla thing…..i find it more annoying that its used to mean “plain”. Like, vanilla is actually can actually be quite tasty and flavourful. Like, if you want to call someone plain….call them plain.

    • Renee says:

      I didn’t realize that we did that. To ALL of my fellow racialized sistren because WE ALL do this – naw, forget this. Can you stop accusing ALL people of color as doing things. We ARE NOT a monolith. We don’t ALL behave the same way, or use the same language. Just because you may have heard 2, or 3 or even 8 people employing this term doesn’t mean that we ALL do it.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        She didn’t say you all did it.

      • db says:

        I’m with you, Renee. Amal *did* imply all p.o.c. women say this, which is silly.

      • Renee says:


        No, but she said that women of color should stop doing it and the implication is that this is something that women of color are in the habit of doing. I don’t think that someone could get away with stating “White people need to stop doing such and such” on this forum. Now if she included a qualifier of stating that people who refer to white women as basic should refrain from doing so that would be different. Even if she wrote “women of color who refer to white women as basic”.

        The other thing that is problematic about her statement is equating the two things when they in fact have very different consequences. The language that is used to describe black women is tied to the that way that we are devalued in society at large and all of the various forms of violence that we are subjected to. So while none of us should be using racial epithets to describe each other, the claim of the first poster detracts from the weight of what Viola has stated and all of the connected issues. Viola didn’t even say, “White people need to stop doing such and such, she said WE, as in everyone, needs to stop doing this. And for Amal to respond by essentially saying, “well, women of color need to stop doing this” ignores the perfectly valid point that Viola made.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Amal said that Viola was right. Then she pointed out that POC also use general, unflattering terms to describe white women. I agree it’s a false comparison, if she meant it as a comparison at all. You make very valid points. But these harsh reactions to what Amal said are not in proportion to her remark, in my opinion. And people are putting words in her mouth. I just think that’s unfair.

        Viola made her arguments in her usual elegant, articulate way. Let’s not get sidetracked by these petty arguments.

      • Daria says:

        If Amal implied ALL POC women did it, then Viola implied that ALL journalists describe black women as “angry,” “soulful,” etc. But the real point of Amal’s comment flew right over your head anyway, so there’s no point in arguing.

      • Daria says:

        Renee is upset and arguing about nothing because Amal is RIGHT — POC women do have a habit of referring to white women as basic, oatmeal, vanilla, whatever. Not all of them do, but I’ve seen it a lot.

      • Kitten says:

        “I don’t think that someone could get away with stating “White people need to stop doing such and such” on this forum.”

        Except people say stuff like that ALL the time on this site. Hell, I’m a white woman and I say “white people have a tendency to say/do this_____”.

        I’m not offended by it and it’s not something to get defensive about. This is an open discussion, and most people are in agreement here, so let’s keep it civil.

      • Greyson says:

        You what else people need to stop doing? Derailing when a criticism comes their way.

        There was no need for Amal as a white person to respond to this article with something she felt POC (with no qualifer you ARE talking about the whole group) did that offended her.

        Why can’t you just LISTEN and take in what Viola is saying?? Why do you have to make it about YOU and your feelings instead of acknowledging Viola’s very VALID point??

        We always hear about white people’s perspective because they control the dominant culture in this culture. Seriously, stop turning every conversation back to how you feel as a white person, and just listen to the point of view of another human being and try, JUST TRY to see where Viola is coming from without getting defensive.

      • QQ says:

        Thanks for this Greyson and SG this is a fine example of gaslighting/derailing/what about meing/ they do it too what about thating a topic about POC perspectives with Lighting quickness LOL

      • Kitten says:

        I know what you’re saying about the derailing, Greyson. I hear you.
        I guess I took Amal’s comment as being fairly innocuous. If she had gone into a long dissertation about how white women are constantly stereotyped, I would have responded quite differently.

        Anyway, I’ll be quiet and listen (read?) because I want the focus of the discussion to be about what Viola said. It’s a far more interesting topic anyway.

      • Tiffany27 says:


        THANK YOU. What a successful derailment that one comment has brought forth and people don’t even see it. SMH.

      • Greyson says:

        OriginalTessa, Amal’s comment was derailing and her being called out on that is fair game — not shutting down discussion.

        Let’s discuss Viola’s article all day long. If you instead want to discuss Amal’s accusation aimed at all POC because the article brought up some uncomfortable truths for her then, yes, people are going to call you on for derailing!

      • Grant says:

        Wow, you sound like all those men behind the #notallmen movement.

      • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:


        Gold Star. 😁

    • SG says:

      Ummm what does that have to do with this article? That came out of left field and has nothing to do with what Viola is talking about. Let’s just try to keep the dialogue focused on POC for once.

      • Daria says:

        Um, it has everything to do with it. Viola is upset that a group of people are being labeled by a derogatory term. White women are allowed to be upset when the same thing happens to them.

      • bns says:

        Yeah, this whole thread is rubbing me wrong, but I won’t bother to elaborate.

      • Greyson says:

        Daria – not every conversation has to be centered around YOU and YOUR FEELINGS as a white person. All day long the media presents the perspective of white people as your group is the dominant culture in America.

        Viola’s point are valid and Amal’s comment diminish and derail.

      • OriginalTessa says:

        Greyson, one way I try to relate to people is through shared experiences. Sometimes the only point of reference I have is about things that have happened to me. I am not Viola Davis. I will never be Viola Davis. But one way I can try to understand Viola Davis is by drawing on my own life. We’re clearly very different. She’s had a rougher road than I have, that’s for sure. But shutting down the option for a white woman to try to relate to her at all as unacceptable because our experiences are different is too harsh. Why can’t I try to see how hurtful stereotypes are to her by drawing on stereotypes that hurt me? Yes, the hurt is different; I get that… But is it completely invalid? No, I don’t think it is.

      • uninspired username says:


        Except it’s not the same thing.

      • Irishserra says:

        @Daria, sure “white people” have the right to be upset when similar things happen to them, but the very point of the posters irritated by the deflection is being proven by comments such as yours and Amal’s (and others). We’re not talking about the interview , Viola’s valid points or the issue she brought up regarding the perception of women of color; we’re debating whose turn it is to gripe about their lot in life. Silly.

      • AlwaysConfused says:

        OriginalTessa, if a person lost a leg in a tragic accident, would you try to relate to said person by saying “Oh, I know, I once had a paper cut!”? I can tell you mean well, but you said it yourself, “the hurt is different.”

      • Elle Kaye says:


        I hope I didn’t offend by talking about my irritation of the dumb blonde stereotype above. I truly wasn’t trying to hijack or be disrespectful, just using my own experience to try and understand what it must be like to be unable to express yourself without someone, somewhere, waiting in the wings wanting to label you.

        Not only are you a POC, but you are a WOC, AND a woman in general. Of course you want and need to be heard, because you are putting up with far too much garbage.

        Thank you for expressing yourself.

    • AlwaysConfused says:

      The question is: would the first thing out of Amal’s fingers have been “white women need to stop calling black women angry” if this article was about a white woman complaining about being called “basic?” All too often, women of color are — whether directly or passive aggressively — told to shut up when it comes to issues like this. Basically, Amal just made this issue — a real one that black women face and that has actual effect on the economic and cultural livelihoods of POC — about the trials of white women.

    • J says:

      I’m white, and I have to say, it is very basic to make a discussion of words that have led to violent harm for black women about some word that did nothing but hurt a basic white girl’s feelings.

      • MissTrial says:


        I like your post J.

        Aside: Now I have that Travolta movie in my head.

      • uninspired username says:

        Amal’s comment couldn’t have been more basic.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        I agree about the derailing. This conversation shouldn’t have opened with something about white people. I agree that it was inappropriate to compare the two, if that’s what Amal was doing. But she has a point that is being overlooked. Everybody, even “a basic white girl” has feelings about being called names, and those feelings are valid. Nobody should lump other groups of people into general categories and use stereotypes, even the people who have suffered the most historically from this type of behavior. It’s like hitting your child for hitting his brother. It’s not ok if you do it, too. Everybody needs to stop doing it. It doesn’t really matter who did it first or who did it worse.

        This past December, I lost my 19 year old nephew. It was sudden and very devastating. The day I got home from his funeral, my neighbor called me crying and very upset because her son lost a finger in an accident with a chain saw. It made me furious that she was, in my mind, whining about this. So I said very coldly that she might want to consider that at least he was alive and she didn’t have to donate his Christmas presents to charity. I think my feelings were understandable, but I also think I was a jerk. Just because my situation was worse, I didn’t allow her to express her valid feelings about her son. Btw, she still won’t speak to me, even though I apologized, and I don’t really blame her.

        I see how this comment made people feel that Viola’s very insightful comments were being brushed aside, and that is a shame. But I don’t think that was the intention. Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought she was just saying nobody should use stereotypes to describe other people, and I agree with that.

      • Tiffany27 says:

        @ GNAT

        I understand what you are saying. My issue is, and I can’t speak for everyone, the fact that every time a POC tries to raise an issue regarding their experiences with racism and how it has been harmful to them it’s always met with
        “Well, some black person once said something mean to me too” or
        “Some latina person said or did this to me and such and such”. To me, this is used to silence their voices or gloss over how they’re feeling. If white women being called “basic” is such an issue, why not bring it up in any of the other threads that focus on white women?
        As someone on here has already stated, WOC are very, VERY rarely given the opportunity to speak in a public platform about these issues. Just for once, ONCE it would be awesome if people took the time to reflect as oppose to criticize. I don’t know what Amal’s intentions were, but they didn’t belong in this thread. That’s my point.
        I’m sorry about your nephew and I understand why you were upset in that moment. I probably would have had the same reaction tbh.

      • Onthedownlow says:

        I love reading your comments and mostly agree with you. You read like a wonderful person.

        But please do me a favor and read Amal,’s comment on the Beyonce thread and you will see her intentions.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Tiffany27 and onthedownlow
        I did as onthedownlow suggested and that, along with your comments, did change my perspective. Tiffany27, you’re right that the conversation should not have been diverted from Viola’s excellent thoughts to this topic, and onthedownlow, I completely see what you mean. Thank you both.

      • Tiffany27 says:

        @ GNAT

        I always like your posts too. Thanks for taking the time to read through :)

      • Kitten says:

        Bleh, I didn’t make the connection that it was the same poster from the Beyoncé thread. Makes a bit more sense now.

      • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:

        GNAT: you’re a class act, as always.

        J: I snorted while drinking a Coke. I’m not so grateful for that part, especially since I was in my sister’s car, but I got a good laugh.

    • uninspired username says:

      The descriptors Davis listed =/= basic.

    • Zoe says:

      Yes, let’s not forget the racialized systemic oppression faced by white women being called “basic.” Why won’t anyone think of the white women?!?!

    • Denise says:

      I’m pretty sure it’s white women calling other particular white women ‘basic’.

      • Irishserra says:

        True. And why do women have to label other women at all? I’m just as annoyed with those who do the labeling as I am with those who constantly give power and life to the stupid labels by making a fuss every time it occurs.

      • bns says:

        This, too. I’ve seen more white people using words like basic, shade, drag, bae, etc than any POC. And they mostly use it in the wrong context.

    • perplexed says:

      How do we know if it’s POC referring to those women as “basic” though? I’ve seen internet commentators use the term, but I don’t know the race of the internet commentators when the term is being used. For all we know, they could be white people calling other white people “basic.”

      I’ve never really seen the term used in a NYT piece, however.

      • Brionne says:

        THIS! a media institution (NYT) did a drive by sniper piece on 2 Black women known for quality work by using stereotypes about black women in general. Then when called on the carpet about this the newspaper writer tried to say she was actually being complimentary.

        I get the point that being referred to by other posters as basic or plain is not nice. We all want to be thought of as beautiful and intriguing. But the fact that a media institution perpetuated stereotypes about 2 particularly talented and hardworking black women rather than speak plainly about their work elevates it to a whole other level for me. NYT is read all across the country if not the world.

    • delorb says:


      Sorry, but basic isn’t about white women and it doesn’t mean plain. As usual a word enters the lexicon and gets mangled or misused. Basic refers to intelligence. I’ve heard all manner of people get called ‘basic’. It was hilariously used against Marlon Wayans in Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. But thanks for trying to hijack this thread.

      I adore her. Her new show is off the charts good and she is very good on it. She goes from in control lawyer to out of control with fear that her husband may have done something horrible. The way she flips her emotions is a thing of beauty.

    • Asiyah says:

      Basic isn’t an adjective used only to describe white women. WOC call other WOC “basic” too.

      • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:

        That’s true. In fact, it’s only been in recent months that I’ve heard people interpreting ‘basic’ as a white-centric insult and I have no idea how it came to be this way because it has never been about that and I don’t think it is now. I think that a lot of black vernacular is picked up by young white kids and sometimes they just don’t know what the words mean. There was an article about that maybe two months ago about how the meanings of words change or get corrupted because the advantage of context and history doesn’t always translate. It’s actually called ‘Columbusing’, as a reference to his misunderstanding of his surroundings and continuing on with the innacuracy. If anyone calls a woman basic solely because she is white, then that person just doesn’t know what it means, regardless of race. It’s just factually incorrect, is all. Black women have been calling each other basic for eons without white women being the equation at all.

        People call Lolo Jones (yes, she is biracial) basic, not because she’s half white, but because she says and does a lot of cruddy stuff (like making fun of young girl’s looks in favour of her own when the girl dressed up as her for Halloween, or her mini meltdown on Dancing with the Stars because her virginity prevented her from being able to tear it up).

        Now that I think of it, a lot of the time, women get called basic when then they Lord themselves over women for no reason other than they believe that their poo doesn’t stink. They’re trying to pull someone’s head out her arse. Lolo wasn’t basic because she has blue eyes and light skin, she was basic because rather than be gracious about a girl wanting to emulate her, he used her own looks as a reason to belittle that girl’s. People reacted as you would imagine–saying things that she has time to be mean little girls because it’s not like she’s out there winning races.

        I’ve seen the word used a few ways, but I’ve always taken it as an inside baseball way of taking the Piss.

    • Kelly says:

      Ahahahahahaha!! I wish I was a non woman of color and that was all I had to complain about.

      Phew, that was funny. And basic.

      Try another.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Do you honestly believe that white women don’t have problems and pain and hardships? That’s sad.

      • littlestar says:

        Agree with GNAT. ALL women have problems (and yes, I realize some women’s problems are much worse than others), but frankly I’m sick of women pinning one another against each other. We have a hard enough time in this world as it is just because of our sex, now we have to fight over a stupid “trendy” word?

    • littlestar says:

      Wow, I guess I am woefully ignorant about the definition of “basic” now, because while I have heard people say “basic white girl” etc, I always just took it to mean boring, non-original, conformist, etc etc. I don’t take it as an insult. And I always assumed you could call ANYONE basic for thinking they are hot shit when they are in fact the complete opposite.

      • perplexed says:

        Yeah, I thought “basic” simply meant boring and could be applied to anyone of any race.

      • Kitten says:

        It’s mostly coming from Buzzfeed and places like that. It’s not at all the same thing as what Viola’s talking about, but it’s usually about white women and it’s just kind of…..dumb.

        There was an interesting thread on Reddit about use of the word “basic”. Really good comments coming from PoC:

        On one hand, I think we’d do well to kind of veer away from lumping people into a stereotype. On the other hand, I’m completely guilty of reinforcing the idea that some things are “white”. I might get a rash of sh*t for this, but I have a friend who has the whitest name of the planet (I wish I could type it here), who plays golf and squash, goes pheasant-hunting and sailing, and wears sweater vests, polo shirts, button-downs and a belt with whales on it.
        He’s just the whitest dude ever. Am I part of the problem? Eh. Probably. But he’s just such a white dude stereotype it cracks me up.

        There’s the other side of this issue too, where claiming something is “white” makes it seem inaccessible to other races. It can also lead to people accusing PoC who engage in these activities or dress a certain way of being “whitewashed”, etc.

        Maybe it’s not all that serious, but it’s something I think about.

      • delorb says:


        That’s not what ‘whitewashing’ means. ‘Whitewashing’ refers to something that is from, say, the black culture, being co-opted by white people, in such a manner that it becomes diluted or ‘washed’. Like say a Katy Perry with corn rows. Vanilla Ice and rapping. Or Pat Boone’s entire career.

    • Elyse says:

      Here are my two cents:
      The angry, loud sassy black woman trope or what we like to call the “Mammy” (derived from the character Mammy from Gone with the Wind) has always been a slander against black women in Hollywood because it has always been associated with inferiority, slavery, lack of education, and humiliation. While I commend Hattie McDaniel’s performance and her Oscar win, I’m still bothered that we had to be exploited in a manner like that. And since people indulged it so much, the ideal that people find the ‘Mammy’ so entertaining still exists today (as well as the meaning behind it). And while you have celebrities like Michelle Obama, Oprah, Kerry Washington, and Miss Viola that are breaking that trope they still can’t escape being associated with it.
      For the ‘basic’ white woman trope it comes from a long term ideal that European/white woman are valued for nothing more than their beauty in Hollywood. Take the early Disney Princesses for example. Their all white, beautiful, sweet, and blander than bland. None of them have any identifiable qualities or personality, and they seem to function more like objects to be looked at and admired. The idea exists even nowadays with Hollywood’s obsession with these pretty ‘It’ girls every five minutes who they keep saying will be the next big thing. Then they turn out to have no talent, little personality, no interesting quirks or anything. They’re just pretty to look at. And since it’s a certain type of beauty their obsessed with, the ‘It’ girls all start to look the same. That’s where the term ‘basic’ comes from. Yeah you have female celebrities/actresses who are respected for their talent/personality/style, but their beauty is still emphasized.
      So while I don’t white women’s issues are as problematic as black women’s (or any WOC) issues, they both should rightfully be addressed in my opinion.

    • Bucky says:

      It’s simply not the same. That analogy is a false one. Educate yourself.

    • SAKS says:

      It’s weird for me that every time there is an article like this, a lot of comments are in the line of how white people suffer from misconceptions-racism too.
      I’m sorry guys but it’s not nearly the same being a white person, than a black person (African American, African or Caribbean), a Latino, an Indian, a native American, etc. It’s just not the same. We know you suffer too, and that you have to deal with misconceptions about you, but never in the levels and conditions of the groups I’ve previously mentioned.
      (I’m sorry if I sound rude or if I’m not that clear, but English is not my first language.)

    • I'm sorry but says:

      Um, first of all, I agree that no one should be using angry, sassy or whatever to speak about black women. It is boring. And reductive. And it should end.

      I’m also not happy people call blonde white women like me vanilla, or whatever, either, but at the end of the day it doesn’t have the same level of negative impact on us as the labels attached to black women. It doesn’t bother me that much, and I agree the labels attached to black women are generally wayyyy more problematic given the historical context. And I totally love that Viola Davis is having this conversation publicly. Kudos to her!!!!

      AT THE SAME TIME, as a woman, I do face a hell of a lot of discrimination, especially having a strong personality and working in a field not traditionally female (I’m a lawyer and policy analyst and volunteer in politics). Angry, or bitchy, or aggressive are words that are used EVERY DAY to diminish me or other women like me when we are stating our opinions, or trying to get shit done. And we are taken less seriously than men who behave the same way. And I’m not talking about being inappropriate. But decisive, strong and competent. And sometimes expressing disagreement or advocating for a different point of view.

      Women of colour, LGBT women, women with disabilities, etc., have additional challenges. There are multiple levels of discrimination at play.

      But man, all women, period face a lot of shit. And the angry label is used against all of us. And it’s so fucking boring, yeah. Let’s just call anyone out that does that shit. I am, like Viola, so effing bored of it.

      Anyhow, not trying to prove any point here. I love that Viola Davis brought this issue up, and is provoking a conversation that we need to be having.

      Oh, and to the people up there ^^^^ who are calling Amal Alamuddin white, um, no. Just no. She is an Arab woman from Lebanon. Definitely not white. Definitely economically privileged. But definitely not white.

    • amunet says:

      I heard of the term Basic B*** but that’s in contrast to the Boss B*** . Meaning the Boss Chick is so on trend, with the recent designers getting and making lots of money ::rolls eyes:: The Basic chick is the one who envies the Boss chick. Bottom line it’s a way to keep us feeling lesser than for not having designer labels and wanting to spend money on things we may not be able to afford. I have not heard this term with race attachment. I still think it’s ignorant language though.

      On to Viola’s comments, I love her speaking out on this because this is the space that black women appear to occupy. Either loud and sassy or angry, etc. To be labelled sexy we have to fit a certain image.

    • Veronica says:

      I don’t know if you realize how narcissistic and privileged this sounded, but – it does. You literally read an article about a black woman expressing her frustration with media expressions of race in society and turned it around to be all about white women.

      I say this politely as I can, as a white woman in society – despite what our culture tells you, it isn’t all about us.

    • Dany says:

      I remember when Blake Lively got her 3,4,5,6th? VogueCover the comments were all a la “another white woman, bland, basic, vanilla, she gives vanilla a bad name” or whatever. We don’t know the race of the commentators (even Amals not), so this is no war between colours or so. White women call other white women basic, too.

      Everytime there is one of these articles here, we have discussions about why women of colour don´t get more covers. I love these discussions because they are so important. We live in a world where we have to celebrate it when there is one person of colour on the cover of a big magazine. That is so sad.

    • Chris says:

      @Amal: Wow. Just. Wow. I think you’ve just set the record for the most responses to a post on Celebitchy. I dips me lid.

    • Lauren says:

      I am a white girl in a Western European country and I get labeled as “angry” or “sassy” or “quite outspoken” when I speak my mind.
      It’s not just something black women suffer from, I think that women as a whole are STILL, by many people, expected to be “sweet, soft-spoken and diplomatic”, unfortunately. (Especially in less developed and modernized countries and areas.)

      I sympathize with the strong women of color of this world who have to fight for things like having their hair texture and skin color accepted in mainstream culture.
      Again, growing up in a small town with close-minded people I was expected to change my auburn curly hair and fair skin. Now I have moved to a better area and don’t have to face that prejudice anymore. Black women still face that struggle every day.

    • ican'tsnap says:

      Much facepalm. So wtf.

  2. Tiffany27 says:

    She is perfect. She didn’t say one incorrect thing in that interview.

    • Chris says:

      She’s perfect? Careful you’re entering pre scandal Tiger Woods territory now and we know how that turned out.

  3. kaligula says:

    I’m glad this is being articulated. Will help society move beyond this, which it is time to do.

    Oh and she is going to kick a** in this role. She is a very exciting actress. Can’t wait for the show….

  4. QQ says:


    Meantime she’s talking about these harmful ass tropes when lifetime has this sh!tty show called “GIRLFRIEND INTERVENTION” in which black sassy women “make over” white women and we wonder why this crap won’t die already

    • Kiddo says:

      Lifetime=shit, it’s actually in the thesaurus. :P

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Yes, I think those stereotypes are perpetuated by a lot of television shows.

    • Irishserra says:


    • delorb says:

      You are kidding right? Damn. No wonder we can’t shake this crap.

      • QQ says:

        i wish! look it up! Brassy sassy even chubby girls and the white chicks are always frumpy and dont “wanna show their asses” is super super offensive

      • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:

        Oh, brother. I’ve never heard of it, and I can’t say I’m the richer now that I have. Thanks, Obama (joke 😛). Sometimes I’m glad I live in Canada, where there’s nothing to watch but Corner Gas and Murdoch Mysteries.

    • kri says:

      Spot on comments about the “reality’ shows. I watched approximately 2 minutes of that Girfreind Intervention hogfeed , and I felt like it was a damn pantomime. Dumb shit. I really admire Viola and the way she speaks her mind and talks about her experiences. Yes, I happen to be white, no, I cannot equate my experiences with some of Viola’s, but I can read the article and see where she is coming from. I will use “all” in one context-all of us can do better towards one another, and all of us can learn from one another. Reading what people express here is important, even if you think they are missing the point(some are) at least there is a discussion going.

      • amunet says:

        Yes that mess of a show “Girlfriend Intervention” is a shame for white and black women. I’m disgusted they actually went through with this. Once again, it’s like saying black women can only accompany THIS space and by extension perpetuating these stereotypes of black culture. Shame on Lifetime.

    • Betty says:

      Oh, my god. That sounds horrible. I am not “sassy” at all, so I guess white people think of me as “uppity,” but in the 21st century they say “arrogant” instead.

    • MaiGirl says:

      Oh, that’s just great. The buffoonery just keeps on coming! Did someone get told to drop that zero and get a hero yet?

  5. Jen2 says:

    Perfection. Another is “exotic”, but we could go on and on. But because she was so decisive in her comment, I am sure she will get the “Why so angry?” charge from someone. Decisive men are leaders, decisive women (no matter what their race) are either angry or bitches.

    She nailed it though

    • QQ says:

      Well you know Jen.. exotic and Spicy are more like for us Latinas .. Cause you know..we roll our Rs and whatnot

      • Jen2 says:

        True, but it can get magnified when it is both or more than one and folks can’t figure out what you are exactly. I have a friend from Panama who is both African and Latina , and she is fab. She looks more African, so folks don’t know from her looks. She was in a situation when folks started putting her down in Spanish. She had a great come back—in fluent Spanish.

      • QQ says:

        hi Jen..have you been following me around any time I have to go to the hellhole calle Miami?!? Cause that is EXACTLY my Life when I go to any Cuban Helmed establishment..either cold shoulder/ignoring/talking smack until I go AWF in Spanish at which point you can see the face crack and the “oh I didn’t know you were one of us” and Im like …”uh..what the eff does that have to do with YOU providing proper service you, a-holes??”

      • Jen2 says:

        So @ QQ, were you “angry, spicy, hot-blooded” or just plain old pissed off?

      • QQ says:

        You forgot “mami” and for that in dissapointed in you Jen 😔

      • Jen2 says:

        @QQ, I apologize. I will do better next time!

      • Irishserra says:

        @QQ, that is terrible, and in some respect I have experienced similar. My husband is Cuban and from Miami, and when we got married, we lived there (Hialeah, to be precise) for a few years. As a tall, pale, freckled red head I got a taste (a very small one, I admit) of what it was to be discriminated against. At the time I did not know Spanish and was not able to enjoy making my offenders feel stupid but I am just thrilled that you were able to and I would have loved to see the look on the faces of those who behaved toward you the way they did.

    • Tiffany27 says:

      Yes to “exotic”! I was on a date once and a guy said I looked exotic and I was like “Nope, I’m not an animal at a zoo or an area rug”.

      • Renee says:

        UGH. I CAN’T with the “exotic” comments but salute your witty retort.

      • Kitten says:

        Ugh. In the past, I’ve had to correct my parents many times after hearing them use the word “oriental”. Oriental is for rugs, guys.

        I haven’t heard them use it in a long time so I think they get it now. Sigh.

      • Irishserra says:

        @Kitten: Yess!!! My mother still uses the term oriental and I cringe and correct her every time. Additionally, I hate it when she’s describing an incident with someone and she has to point out whether they were white or black. I really don’t give a rat’s ass what color the parties are and it makes no difference to your anecdote!!

    • GiGi says:

      A resounding YES to stopping “exotic”. I’m Native American and back in the day when I was just starting out acting, they said “exotic” all the time… The last thing I got called for that specified a look said they were casting a “racially ambiguous” person. Is that better? IDK. I got the job, lol! I guess “racially ambiguous” is a lot less sexualized than “exotic” – so… there’s that?

      • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

        What have you been in GiGi?

      • GiGi says:

        Some things ;) That casting was for an office furniture commercial. I’ve done just some small work here and there over the last 20 years… I’m super not famous, but the pay is good, so I keep going back. The last thing I did was about three years ago – a few lines on a one hour cop drama.

    • Adrien says:

      I’m part Asian so I always get exotic. I thought it was a compliment when I was young. Gigi, Davis co-star in HTGAWM, Alfie Enoch is often called racially ambiguous. He’s part Latino, btw.

    • maybeiamcrazy says:

      Exotic really rubs me in wrong way. I am white and get called exotic from time to time( I have super curly/afro hair and thick lips which are obviously “black” features). I cannot even imagine how much people from other races have to hear that word.

  6. Luca26 says:

    Love her!!! And yes we are tired of it!

  7. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    Totally agree with her. But cue the “everybody is too sensitive these days” comments, so I’m checking back with one eye closed.

  8. DCJ says:

    She is beautiful, but with the right shade of lipstick, she is radiant!

  9. tmh says:

    I do agree people need to stop associating black women with words such as loud, angry, scary, and ghetto. But being a black woman myself I don’t find the word sassy disrespectful as the other words people try to call black women.

    • Irishserra says:

      But that being said, I’m sure you don’t reserve the term “sassy” only for other black women, right? I don’t get offended really when I’m labeled one thing or another (However, I am white and therefore have not been subjected to the daily discrimination you may have to face) but I do find myself rolling my eyes when black men refer to me as “Lily.” I’m pale for sure, but I don’t understand why people need to constantly comment on my lack of color (I’m not even THAT pale!) :)

      I digress though. I think I see what you mean. If people used the word sassy with regard to a personality trait and not a racial one, it wouldn’t be an issue.

      • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:

        Lily is new, I’ve of ‘Becky’ but this one’s new. I don’t know, we don’t have slang for white women here. Definitely have it for black women, though: some crap is universal.

    • Josefa says:

      I see “sassy” used to describe a lot of minorities. It’s applied to latinas and gay men a lot, too.

  10. Gina says:

    She’s giving too much credit to human nature. This isn’t just a black issue IMO anyway. I’d love to be compared to *insert pretty person name here* but in reality, I don’t expect it to happen. The young and beautiful are worshipped in this country, I don’t know why she would expect things to be any different for her. In the end, you’re judged by your accomplishments and that should be enough. Maybe in another twenty years or so, things will be different, but I doubt it. Marilyn Monroe is still very popular fifty years after her demise.

    • bns says:

      Do you really believe people are only judged by their accomplishments alone? Where is this fair world that you’re living in? Because in the world that I live in people are judged by their gender, skin color, sexuality, social class, etc. Most of the time honest hard work doesn’t cut it, unless you’re a straight white man. And just because she shouldn’t “expect things to be any different for her” doesn’t mean that she just has to lay down and take it without speaking her mind. Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but I don’t get this comment.

      Also, Marilyn Monroe is remembered for her looks and the tragedy/mystery surrounding her life and death. A lot of people probably can’t name a movie of hers, so I don’t see how that’s a relevant example.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I think you’re missing her point. She’s saying, I think, that a journalist wouldn’t compare the beauty of two white women in a film the way the NYT’s author did in that quote about Viola being the older, darker skinned, less classically beautiful woman of the two black women. Someone wouldn’t say Jane Fonda was an older, paler, less attractive actor than Julia Roberts. Why compare them at all? The author compared them because they were both black. That’s what I understood anyway.

    • allheavens says:

      In what alternate universe do you live? I am very accomplished, I know many POC who are accomplished but we still have to work harder to prove ourselves, even today.

      I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told I only got into the schools I attended or got the jobs I did because of Affirmative Action. No, I got into the schools I did because I exceeded the qualifications for admission and the jobs because I was more than qualified and prepared.

      I have never once behaved in an unprofessional manner but was labeled the “intimidating Black women” simply because I expected everyone to do their jobs while my white counterparts could behave like bitches on wheels and be praised for it.

      I had one younger white chick who worked for me ask if she could called me “Mama (insert my last name here)” and I asked her should I call her Miss Ann. Needless to say she got the message. Now, would she have asked my white counterpart if she could called her mama, I doubt it.

      But that is only the tip of the iceberg. I am older than most of you in these threads and believe me when I say, “I’ve got tells to tell.”

      Amal did try to derail the thread. Someone upthread said she was Lebanese and not white but Amal did not say “we as POC” should stop calling white women basic. Therefore it was left for many to assume that Amal was white or white ethnic and though Lebanese may consider herself thus.

      It’s been stated that just for once could women of color speak on their experience without white women starting the Oppression Olympics? I don’t know the answer to that question but what I do know is all things are not equal, and oppression is most definitely not one of them.

  11. OriginalTessa says:

    I guess I don’t get what’s wrong with being called sassy or soulful. White women are usually referred to as uptight, dry and basic. I wouldn’t mind having someone see a little soul or sass in me. I would think it is a compliment.

    • maybeiamcrazy says:

      Being soulful or sassy is not an insult in itself but they are stereotypes. Not all black women are angry, sassy and soulful just like not every white women are uptight, dry or basic. At the end stereotypes never lead to any good. They should all be erased.

      • Betty says:

        Sassy implies black women have “attitudes.” We are finger snapping, neck twirling women with chips on our shoulders but express it in a “humorous” way. That’s why “sassy” is offensive. It fuel stereotypes, just like calling gay men “fierce,” “flaming” or “fabulous” does.

      • wolfpup says:

        It seems like everybody has a gripe about their bodies, and how they are perceived. The world is not fair, plain and simple, and probably will never be, as monsters really exist. However, I believe that looking for similarities is most useful.

        That said, I am totally bewildered and perplexed as to how plantation owners were unable to see that!!! I really do not see how so many people could not perceive the humanity of another.

    • FingerBinger says:

      I guess there’s nothing wrong with it ,but when that’s all people see you as ,it becomes a problem. I know quite a few Latinas that hate the “spicy” label. Sonia Sotomayor is Puerto Rican ,but she’s also a respected lawyer and judge. I’m sure she’s doesn’t want to be referred to as a “spicy Latina.” It’s really disrespectful.

    • Kim1 says:

      I would be insulted if I was called sassy,to me sassy is rude and disrectful.

    • bns says:

      It’s a politically correct way of perpetuating the angry black woman stereotype.

  12. maybeiamcrazy says:

    She is so right about the comprisons between actresses. It is something I never fully realized before. I love Viola Davis.

  13. M.A.F. says:

    F**k damn I love this woman. Why can’t more of the actresses be like her?

  14. FingerBinger says:

    I agree with about how black women are labeled. Michelle Obama is the first lady of the United States and a Harvard trained lawyer ,but none of that matters because people only see her as an “angry black woman.” As for the How to get away.. ,the show is OK it’s not great. I’m just watching it because it’s Viola.

    • Kitten says:

      The sh*t with Michelle Obama took like, what, a minute for people to start in with the “she’s an angry black woman” BS? I mean, it was almost instantaneous-as soon as Obama was elected for his first term.

      The craziest part is that Michelle’s this amazingly intelligent, articulate, and WARM person. She smiles often and always seems so engaging in interviews. The way some painted her as “angry, aggressive” was truly racism at it’s finest.

      • littlestar says:

        That’s exactly how Michelle Obama comes across to me as well, she always has a serene natural aura about her considering the crap she has to put up with. Who the hell are these people painting her as angry and aggressive?? Fox News??

      • Josefa says:

        It’s incredible how rooted the stereotype is. I was a big fan of America’s Next Top Model in my teen years (don’t judge), and they usually revealed the cast like 3 months before the premiere. We were only shown A PICTURE of the contestants, and people were getting “bitch” vibes from the black models. “I have a feeling she’ll be the fun bitch of the cycle”, “Oh, she’ll give us a lot of quotes and star in a lot of drama”… all of this before we even got to hear their voices.

        But well… it was reality TV. It’s not like they do much to fight stereotypes. As it turns out, one of the black girls WAS the villain of the season more than a few times.

    • Dany says:

      Off topic. I have to say when i first saw Michelle the first thing i noticed were her angry eyebrows and i thought she has to be a hard woman. I´m kind of obsessed with eyebrows (i don´t know why) and i look at them. They define our faces. Michelle´s were so super thin and angular. Typical case of angry eyebrows!
      She now has normal thick eyebrows and looks warm and kind and more beautiful. Eyebrows have power, guys ;)

      The skin colour is a big factor in our judgment. The fear of strangers is inherent. People who have little contact with people of another colour, religion, nationality and even invalids in daily life often react with fear and suspicion because it is unfamiliar. They then try to label the unknown. Humans fear the unknown till they learn more about something or someone and then realize there is nothing to fear. The problem is when this fear becomes hate. Racism and hatred of strangers is made, acquired by parents and environment.

  15. GlimmerBunny says:

    I love Viola Davis too and I like this interview. But she’s wrong in her answer absout the comparison of actresses. Lena Dunham gets compared to Zooey Dechanel (and other female, prettier, comedy show leads) A LOT, ofthen much more unfavorably than Viola to Kerry Washington. I’m not a huge fan of Lena or “Girls” but her looks definitely gets criticized much more than Viola’s.

    • allheavens says:

      Do you have percentages and sources because otherwise what you have stated has no factual basis. It’s just what you perceive to be true.

      And this is not about Lena Dunham.

  16. Sadezilla says:

    She really is everything. Her comments about her early life resonate. Keep the Viola posts coming, please!

  17. Meryl says:

    I wonder if she’s still mad that I beat her for the Oscar?

  18. OhDear says:

    She’s really awesome!

  19. aenflex says:

    Personally I wouldn’t mind being called soulful or sassy. Sure beats basic.

  20. frisbeejada says:

    I’ve found the comments on this board illuminating which is a reflection on Viola Davis who just proves a strong intelligent woman can break open a useful conversation for women everywhere. All women are going to experience crap, all going to experience stereotyping and none of it is acceptable – all of it needs to be challenged.

  21. Adrien says:

    HTGAWM is awesome. On its pilot, there’s salad tossing, a cunning linguist, gay coupling. Love it.

  22. PattyCakes says:

    Regarding these comments: it’s clear that a Black person can never talk about a struggle they have without White people belittling that struggle by pretending they have it just as bad. “But wait, people call me mean names too!!!!” Gosh. Just stop. Ever think that the terms “basic” and “vanilla” came about as a reaction to the myriad disparaging/stereotypical names Black women are called all the time?

    Hate to be harsh but, really, it gets old. Let her talk about her struggle please.

  23. Gorgonia says:

    I find this woman awesome, it’s not so common to read such an interesting interview .
    regarding the discussion who took place here, I thing we can reasonably listen to her words and fight back any kind of stereotypes about women (no matter the ages, the backgrounds, the nationalities).

  24. Chinoiserie says:

    This is little of the topic, butt does anyone else get the feeling that she thinks she is better looking than she is (not from this interview alone, in general). Obviously it is not a bad thing to have self-confidence, but she seems to think she misses roles from racisim and not because she does not have really Hollywood looks anyway.

    • Grace says:

      Please, pray tell, what are Hollywood looks?

    • PattyCakes says:

      No, I doubt anyone else thinks that; Viola is gorgeous. Perhaps subconsciously you feel she doesn’t have ‘Hollywood looks’ because she doesn’t have classical European looks. May I ask, what Black actresses out there do you think have Hollywood looks?

      Perhaps that is part of the problem.

    • andypandy says:

      WTF ???
      Her confidence is from her acting talents there are many other successful white actresses that do not necessarily fit the mold of mainstream Beauty (and were told so early in their career ) but are darn talented and beautiful in their own way Bette Davis , Meryl Streep , Glenn Close to name a few
      Do tell what people with what looks deserve to be in Hollywood

    • Blythe says:

      You might be racist and may not even know it. If you have any doubt in your mind, reread your comment again.

    • Janet says:

      That has to rank as the most disingenuous comment I have ever read on this blog. If she is missing roles because she doesn’t have “Hollywood looks”, then she is most definitely missing roles because of racism.

    • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:

      That comment was so out of the blue and out there that I have to wonder if you’re currently sitting on a bird.

    • Elle Kaye says:

      She is a beautiful woman….but there is more to a person than looks. She also is an amazing actor. I suppose next you will say that she doesn’t get roles because she isn’t as young as she needs to be.

      • Dany says:

        sadly Hollywood doesn´t value talent. They´ll often choose a pretty, but mediocre actor/actress over someone with real talent who has a few pounds more or a crooked nose or so.

    • Danskins says:

      Ugh please go away, troll.

  25. Nikkisixx says:

    Blah blah blah. White women have it so hard because they’re called basic, woe is me. Whatever Amal brought up is not as hurtful as what viola Davis brought up. Because there is a LONG history of pain, suffering and sterotyping with the descriptions of black women as angry. Here, you just got your feelings hurt. Lmao at people being offended at white face as well. Did black people ever make minstrel showing white people as caricatures? NO. I say this as a white person who knows when to take things lightly and not so lightly

  26. Alexis says:

    Yes just yes

  27. Kris says:

    I literally gasped when she came out in her first scene on How to Get Away with Murder. She is FABULOUS.

  28. amanda says:

    After watching her new show I would describe her character as scary for sure… not due to her race but the way she intimidates her students and treats her lover. I wouldn’t describe the actress as scary though. I don’t understand the harm in describing people as they are.

  29. murphy says:

    She’s the best, I love seeing her on SVU re-runs too.

  30. lucy2 says:

    I love her – every time she does an interview, she says something really true and thought provoking. I love that she isn’t playing a PR game, she’s honest about her feelings and experiences, and she talks about them in such a straight forward and intelligent way.
    I think she’s amazingly talented as an actress, but while I’m finding her show entertaining, it’s not quite…up to par with her talents, IMO. I worry it’s going to be just another ABC primetime soap. I kind of wish some greatly written cable show had been built around her, but at the same time, I’m thrilled she’s got a leading role and all the attention that goes with it.

  31. paranormalgirl says:

    There’s a certain stereotype perpetuated over and over again in the media that utilizes the same descriptors for women of color – both the actresses and the character. You don’t see this with white women and if you do, it’s not with the same perpetuation that it is for women of color. And this is crap, and Viola Davis called it out as the crap it is and I applaud her.

  32. TOPgirl says:

    Every women of different color has a label. Can’t be helped, it’s part of the way humans think, it helps us identify behaviors, differences, and culture.

  33. Guest says:

    “I don’t have any time to stay up all night worrying about what someone who doesn’t love me has to say about me,” Davis said during an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

    You can watch that conversation at

    Spend the time with the people who love you and quit worrying about the others. One cannot lead a satisficing life experience by needing outside
    validation. If that needs persists; it will be the undoing of the individual”.

    The interesting part of the NYT piece is that its detractors refused to accept the definition placed by certain parts of society.

  34. Lawd... says:

    How did story become about how offended white women are by the word ‘basic’? Isn’t it the equivilant if being called a “Plain Jane”?

    Anyway,back to Viola and the serious issues she trying to address

  35. Amy says:

    She is a goddess, that is all.

    Also yes…funny how an insightful comment into the quietly destructive nature of race relations became a discussion on white women suffering under the ‘basic’ label.

    My heart simply weeps. So much pressure to escape a term that was coined in the 90′s and only came into popular lexicon recently. However do you all stand it? What stories will you tell your children about how basic cost you a job, reputation and put you at risk for violence or rape? May history remember poignantly the scourge of basic.

  36. ChaiChai says:
    Remember the time when George Clooney deviated from the point Davis was trying to make and made it about himself?

  37. Butterfly J says:

    I found it fascinating to read the comments.

    They really goes to show 1) that the American racial experience is vastly different that what has been experienced in other parts of the world where no one really cares what colour your skin is and – at least in my country – it is pretty equal opportunity provided you have an education, and 2) that the United States still has some serious race issues, including persistent anger from all sides of the racial divide, which prevents moving on as a culture. This inability to progress with race relations/civility is astounding to me.

    I also find it interesting that even tacit acknowledgement that racial/gender-based stereotyping goes both ways is, apparently, super taboo and inappropriate to some Americans.

    • AlwaysConfused says:

      What country do you live in? And can you elaborate on what you mean when you say, “I also find it interesting that even tacit acknowledgement that racial/gender-based stereotyping goes both ways is, apparently, super taboo and inappropriate to some Americans.”

      Also, are you a black woman?

      Saying “tacit acknowledgement that racial stereotyping goes both ways is, apparently, super taboo and inappropriate to some Americans, ” is an indicator that you “don’t get it.”

    • allheavens says:

      @Butterfly J

      Sweety, that country only exists in your head. That is unless you live in a completely homogeneous nation with no immigration or a complete bubble.

      Let’s keep it real. Race matters, cultural experience matters. The question is can we find a way to live side by side in a cohesive and respectful manner with those differences? Or will there always be the need to oppress and denigrate another human being because of those differences in order for another to exercise racial and cultural supremacy?

    • Pepsi Presents...Coke. says:

      I have to agree with the poster above. I think the place you’re talking about is Blisstonia. I’m not American and my experiences as a non-American Black Woman are identical to the ones described here. Identical. And we all go through every one of those things, no exceptions. The truth is that there isn’t a place on Earth that doesn’t see us as the lowest of the low. I think you’re sincere and want to see this world you describe, but it doesn’t exist.

    • wolfpup says:

      Yes, Blisstonia, where we all meld into one.

      Who’s been to Africa, or Mexico, or the Middle East, China, Japan et al. The place where you look like everyone else? In your tribe, your country of origin, there is no racism, except to perceived outsiders. It’s that way everywhere. People ARE predictable.

  38. Lori says:

    Only read a few comments, and don’t want to get into a race war. But in the pilot she played her role as an angry aggressive woman. And a bit holier than thou. And she did not deviate in the second episode, but added manipulative to the mix. This is her character, not her own person or her own race or her own sex. It is a character.

    • AlwaysConfused says:

      It’s too bad that you a) immediately label it a “race WAR” and b) refuse to take the time to read through the experiences and opinions of fellow human beings; doing so, could, ya know, help you become a little more compassionate. And refusing to do so means you’re part of the problem (as your tone deaf comment illustrates), not the solution.

    • andypandy says:

      Thank you for proving how color helps shape our perceptions
      Glenn Close in Damages plays a similar character to Viola , That character is often described as strong decisive no-nonsense but for Viola all you see in a BW with similar traits is angry and aggressive??? (I must have seen another show)
      the race problems in the USA will never go as long as some people get defensive refuse to listen and try to shut down any type of discussion on the matter as a ” race war” Good Day to you

  39. Thelly says:

    I love Viola, she has a certain strength deep down inside that even she is not aware of.
    I’m not getting in the debate.

    I love her new show, it keeps me on my toes.

  40. Tasty says:

    I love her!! she knows her craft and with each character she portrays, she brings it.

  41. tickled pink says:

    well poverty did not lead to violence in my family. It lead to very hard work to get out of it.

    • AlwaysConfused says:

      Viola clearly worked hard to escape her poverty stricken past, too. So, what’s your point?

    • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:

      Right, how sad that she never overcame the difficulties of her childhood and has shown herself to be a complete failure. That, or she has has gone on to multiple Academy Award nominations and is starting in one of the most talked-about shows currently on television.

      Some people can’t do anything that registers as ‘good enough’, now we’re holding on to things that happened to her 40 years ago?Because her upbringing wasn’t up to snuff? Why?

  42. Danskins says:

    Kudos to Viola on her intelligent, insightful interview and excellent performance in her new show!

    Such an actor’s actor – love her!