Last year, a New York Times article written by Alessandra Stanley sparked outrage on social media after she referred to TV powerhouse Shonda Rhimes as an “angry black woman” and Viola Davis as “less classically beautiful.”
“When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman,” Stanley wrote.
And now, a year later, Rhimes and How to Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis say that those few words written by Stanley did have one positive effect, and that’s the backlash against those stereotypes.
“Very quickly, maybe because of Twitter, there were some really beautiful articles written in response that made me feel like, ‘Oh my god, there are some thinking people out there!’” Rhimes told EW. “Because if that had gone uncommented upon, I would’ve felt like, ‘That’s what’s out there.’ I remember starting the day feeling one way”—Rhimes took a deep breath, just remembering how frustrated she was—“and ending the day feeling very warmed.”
Davis reflected on the issue of colorism that has plagued Hollywood, and the comments made by Stanley comparing her with lighter-skinned black women were nothing she wasn’t familiar with.
“Colorism and racism in this country are so powerful that the Jim Crow laws are gone, and we know most of segregation is gone, but what’s left is a mindset. As an actress, I have been a great victim of that,” she said.
“There were lot of things that people did not allow me to be until I got [the role of] Annalise Keating,” she continued. “I was not able to be sexualized. Ever. In my entire career. And here’s the thing that’s even more potent: I’ve never seen anyone who even looks like me be sexualized on television or in film. Ever. When people say they’re tired of hearing that, I always say, ‘OK, well, you give me an example and then I’ll stop talking about it. But I’m gonna talk about it until you hear it.’”
As Rhimes and Davis gear up for another season of Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, these two women have proved that they’re forces to be reckoned with. And aren’t afraid to speak their mind.