Sammy Nickalls
March 07, 2016 1:13 pm
Disney–ABC Domestic Television

Viola Davis is known for speaking out about the important things. We certainly won’t forget her groundbreaking Emmy speech back in September, when the How to Get Away With Murder star famously told the crowd,”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.”

Now, Davis is opening up about the societal pressures surrounding black women and their hair — pressures she’s been feeling more intensely since caring for her young daughter’s hair. “I invest so much into her life, but if her hair isn’t right then I’m not a good mother,” she told Essence. “But, like India Arie says, ‘I’m not my hair.’ Well, I am my hair, but there’s so much more to me.”

Davis is an incredibly busy woman, juggling acting, motherhood, and her work with the The Healing Project, which aims to provide skin treatment for millions around the world who are affected by poverty or natural disasters. Because of this, she doesn’t have much time to devote to her hair. With the pressures surrounding its maintenance, she’s learned to accept her own hair just the way it is.

“Sometimes [actresses] feel like if we don’t have perfect hair, then we’re not doing anything. We have to understand that that hair doesn’t negate our beauty,” she told Essence. “You’ll see a Caucasian lady walking into the scene with messed up hair, or after the shower with no makeup and it’s not a big deal. It’s just her portraying that moment in time. But we don’t allow ourselves to do that.”

This is a testament to why Davis’s scenes on HTGAWM — when Annalise Keating (Davis) takes off her wig, revealing a closely cropped cut underneath — are so powerful. At least one other black actress is very appreciative. “[What] is important about Viola Davis taking her wig off on How to Get Away With Murder is that it illustrates that there is a mask that women are thought to have to wear. For black women, it can be a more complex mask,” Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays Rainbow on ABC’s Black-ish, told Entertainment Weekly in December of 2014. “What I think is exciting is that to a certain extent, there is a revolution happening where black women are owning their own beauty, despite the standard of beauty that in the past has not had space for it.”

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