Viola Davis has been straight up running things as Annalise Keating on, this season’s new addition to the Shonda Rhimes lineup of TV brilliance, How To Get Away With Murder. Last night at the People’s Choice Awards she was honored for her seriously powerful turn as the professor and lawyer, accepting the prize for Favorite Actress in a New TV series. She took the moment to thank all the necessary people, and also to take the slyest, classiest hit against that nasty New York Times article from back in September. You remember that article: it was a tone-deaf piece, written by the Times’ television critic Alessandra Stanley, on Shonda Rhimes and Viola Davis, that was (rightfully) decimated by readers for being racist.
For a taste as to why it was so controversial, consider the first sentence: “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.'” In the article, Stanley also praised Rhimes for choosing Viola Davis to star in the new show because she “is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than [Kerry] Washington.” Um, what?
Davis hit back at the assessment of her looks during last night’s speech. While accepting her trophy, Davis expressed gratitude to the producers of the series: “Thank you Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers and Peter Nowalk,” she said, “for thinking of a leading lady who looks like my classic beauty.”
This was not the first time Davis made a powerful statement about those very words. On The View in September, she responded to Stanley’s jab saying, “I think that beauty is subjective. I’ve heard that statement [less classically beautiful] my entire life. Being a dark-skinned black woman, you heard it from the womb. And ‘classically not beautiful’ is a fancy term for saying ugly. And denouncing you. And erasing you. Now . . . it worked when I was younger. It no longer works for me now. It’s about teaching a culture how to treat you. Because at the end of the day, you define you.”
So Viola Davis wins, of course. Living well really is the best revenge.
Check out her speech from last night.