Viola Davis seemingly skyrocketed to fame, taking the American media by storm. An actor and producer, Viola is the only African American actress to be nominated for three Academy Awards. Currently starring as Annalise Keating in ABC’s hit program, How To Get Away With Murder, she started her acting career on the stage. Davis was born in St. Matthews, where her mother was a civil rights activist. Violas was jailed with her mother at two years old during a Civil Rights protest. The second youngest of six children, her family life was troubled and marred by abject poverty, dysfunction, and separation. When her family moved to Rhode Island, two of her older siblings were left behind with their grandparents. In Rhode Island, they lived in a series of subpar apartments. Davis graduated from Central Falls High School, where she fell in love with acting and the stage. She continued her education majoring in theater at Rhode Island College. She graduated in 1988, after which, she enrolled in the famed Juilliard School for four years.

After a very minor role as a nurse in a Timothy Hutton film led the actress to obtain her Screen Actors Guild card in 1996, she continued to take minor acting roles. She slowly gained experience and her roles in television, movies, and on the stage gained her greater and greater prominence. Her roles on television include Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and two short-lived series, Traveler and Century City. Her stage roles include Everybody’s Ruby, The Vagina Monologues, Intimate Apparel, Doubt, and Fences. She later reprised her role in Fences for the movie adaptation of August Wilson’s play opposite Denzel Washington. Her other movie roles include Out of Sight, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Eat Pray Love, Get On Up, The Help, and Suicide Squad.

Viola Davis is the recipient of many awards and recognitions, among them, she was inducted into The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2013, she won her second Tony Award. Davis is only the second African-American woman to win the award. The first was actress, Phylicia Rashad. In 2012, Time magazine named Davis one of the most influential people in the world. In that same year, Glamour magazine named Davis their choice for Film Actress of the year. She was also awarded the Women in Film’s Crystal Award.

Aside from gaining major attention for her role in The Help, the role that has won her the most critical acclaim and catapulted her to become a household name is Annalise Keating. Keating is the lead character in Peter Nowalk and Shonda Rhimes’ hit show, How To Get Away With Murder. This role lead to Davis becoming the first black woman of any nationality to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The actress went on to receive a second Emmy Award for this same role.

Upon winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Fences, Viola Davis became the first ever black actor to win the Triple Crown of Acting by winning an Emmy, Tony and Oscar. Overcoming poverty and family dysfunction, Davis believes her success was possible because she always remained true to herself, saying, “Do not live someone else’s life and someone else’s idea of what womanhood is. Womanhood is you. Womanhood is everything that’s inside of you.”


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