Ac­tor and pro­ducer Vi­ola Davis gave a rous­ing speech about lead­er­ship and au­then­tic­ity to a well­heeled crowd of Hol­ly­wood power play­ers at an event in New York, USA.

Davis, who was be­ing hon­oured with the Sherry Lans­ing Lead­er­ship Award, said that when she thinks of the idea of lead­er­ship Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to mind, and that she is try­ing through her pro­duc­tion com­pany to em­brace women of colour as they re­ally are.

“There is no limit to how we see nar­ra­tives with peo­ple of colour,” Davis said to a rapt crowd that in­cluded ac­tors Mandy Moore, Lupita Ny­ong’o, and Yal­itza Apari­cio, and singers Awkwafina, Rita Wil­son, and Ke­sha. “There is only so much I am go­ing to cow tow to this busi­ness,” she said.

She added that she started JuVee Pro­duc­tions along with her hus­band Julius Ten­non be­cause she was tired of cel­e­brat­ing movies that didn’t have “me in it”.

“I don’t mean me Vi­ola,” Davis said, adding, “I mean me as a black woman.”

She urged those in power in Hol­ly­wood to show more au­then­tic black fe­male char­ac­ters. “My main mes­sage is ‘stop tam­ing us,’ she said. “Ev­ery­thing that we are in­side is what makes art in this world rich ... There is some­thing to be said about be­ing wild. Steve McQueen is wild. Barry Jenk­ins. Ryan Coogler .... Th­ese peo­ple who just dare. Who say, you can­not si­lence me.”

Even when there are black char­ac­ters, she said, they’re re­duced to be­ing ma­ter­nal, to be­ing the saviour, to be­ing de­nied sex­u­al­ity, to be­ing there to, “Make that white char­ac­ter feel bet­ter.”

“What is in my heart is I can­not lead with bulls***,” she said, adding, “I can­not lead with ly­ing. I can­not lead with the ly­ing about what the road is out there.”


Vi­ola Davis

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