During a Thursday appearance on The View, Viola Davis fired back at the New York Times writer who recently said she was “less classically beautiful.” Last week, in an article that received plenty of backlash, Times writer Alessandra Stanley not only critiqued Davis’ looks but also referred to Shonda Rhimes as an angry black woman.
In response to that article, the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, said it was “astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch.” Sullivan also noted, “The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story.” She continued, “Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way.”
Davis, who didn’t publicly address the comments until yesterday, explained on the show how she felt about them and what made her take on the role in Rhimes’ How to Get Away With Murder:
I’m glad that Shonda Rhimes saw me and said “Why not?” That’s what makes her a visionary. That’s what makes her iconic. 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.
As Davis so eloquently put it, dark-skinned women have been described as less classically beautiful forever. But just as she doesn’t let the comment define her, neither should other women. Davis is not only a beautiful woman; her grace and intelligence also shine through everything she’s a part of.