Trilby Beresford
March 01, 2017 12:22 pm
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

For most of us, the memories of our parents snapping our photo at every available opportunity is something that we take for granted. Viola Davis is constantly photographed as a famous actress, but she experienced a strikingly different childhood in Rhode Island.

In a People cover story, Davis reveals the heartbreaking reason why she only has one photo of herself as a child at school.

It’s because she grew up in poverty — her family couldn’t afford a camera. “The only picture I have of my childhood is the picture of me in kindergarten. I have this expression on my face — it’s not a smile, it’s not a frown. I swear to you, that’s the girl who wakes up in the morning and who looks around her house and her life saying, ‘I cannot believe how God has blessed me.’” 

In these days of smartphones and selfies, it’s difficult to imagine that a camera could be a luxury item, but it was, and still is, for so many families.

via giphyDavis goes on to describe living with five siblings in a dilapidated house with “shoddy plumbing and no phone and no food and rats and all of that.” Yes, rats. And the rat problem was so bad that they would bite the heads off her dolls, and sometimes she had to sleep with with rags tied around her neck to keep them from biting her at night.

But Davis used her circumstances as motivation for the future.

via giphy“It became motivation as opposed to something else — the thing about poverty is that it starts affecting your mind and your spirit because people don’t see you. I chose from a very young age that I didn’t want that for my life. And it very much has helped me appreciate and value the things that are in my life now because I never had it. A yard, a house, great plumbing, a full refrigerator, things that people take for granted, I don’t.”

As much as it breaks our hearts to know that Davis endured such struggle when she was younger, it’s incredibly inspiring to see how she persevered through the ups and downs, and ultimately emerged as one of the most talented and gracious women we’ve ever had the privilege of watching on our screens.

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