From humble beginnings, actress Viola Davis, the second of six children, worked her way up through abject poverty and dozens of bit parts in movies and TV, some of them uncredited (like “unnamed CIA Chairwoman” in Syriana), to become one of Hollywood’s most distinguished and sought after actresses. Born August 11, 1965 on her grandmother’s farm in St. Matthews, South Carolina, Viola is now getting some very good roles.
Her mother, Mae Alice, was a maid, factory worker and homemaker, and her father was a horse trainer. When Viola was just two months old, the family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island, where her love of acting began.
Probably best known for her portrayal of Aibileen Clark, a maid and nanny in Civil Rights era America during the early 1960s, in last year’s The Help, a role for which she has been nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award, and also for her performance as Mrs. Muller in 2008’s Doubt, Viola says she was a freshman in high school when she first saw acting as her way out of poverty.
A representative from The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York had visited her school, and when he asked how many of the students wanted to become actors, Viola and every one of her classmates raised their hand. Then, as the man explained how difficult the life of an actor could be, and the hardships that struggling actors often face, half of the hands went down, then more of them, until Viola’s was the only hand still raised.
“When you havenâ€™t had enough to eat,” she says of that moment, “when your electricity and heat is cut off, you’re not afraid anymore when someone tells you life is going to be hard. The fear factor was minimized for me. My dreams were bigger than the fear.”
Lucky for us, she found her niche.
I love the idea of dreaming bigger than the fear. I think I’ll have to add that into my rotation of daily mantras.
Good luck at the Oscars, V!
Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,