Viola Davis’ Emmy Win Is A Much Needed Boost of Encouragement For Female Artists Of Color By Tamu McPherson
This past Saturday a group of Pretty Birds from London and I got together at Balthazar for a meet and greet. As with the social that I held in NY, I was completely blown away by the impressive backgrounds and experiences of everyone in attendance. We talked about everything from love, family and careers. And as one bird shared her desire to pursue acting, she confided that her only concern was the lack of roles for artists of color in the UK.
The other women and I responded to her reservations with encouragement, and the conversation segued into a discussion of respected artists of color and popular U.S. TV shows with leading artists of color such as Empire (Taraji P. Henson), Scandal (Kerry Washington) and How To Get Away with Murder (Viola Davis).
Completely unaware that Emmy’s were scheduled for the next day and that Henson and Davis were both nominated for the Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series award, I continued my London Fashion week tour. When I woke up the next morning and learned from Instagram the incredible news of Davis’ win, a first time victory for an African American woman, I immediately screenshot an image from her acceptance speech and whats app’d it to my friend as a definitive message of inspiration urging her towards realizing her dream of becoming an actor.
I love Viola because she has been a woman I value of immense substance, it never ever occurred to me that the media have described her as being ‘unconventional beauty’. To me she is beyond that. She studied drama at Yale where the likes of Meryl Streep and Lupita Nyong’o have attended.
I’ve read the plays she performed and watched her films. I always closely followed black female actors because I guess I was thinking about how I would ‘fit’ in to all of this.
It’s only made me more determined than ever.
In her speech, the always elegant Davis quoted Harriet Tubman:
In my mind, I see a line. And over that line I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.
She went on to say:
The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. Here’s to all the writers… People who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.
Thank you Ms. Davis and all of you redefining the beauty and brilliance of black artists everyday. You renew our drive to dream, to pursue those dreams, and to walk up to the line and give our all to cross it.