A Black photographer, Dario Calmese, shot Viola Davis‘ Vanity Fair cover. Why does this matter — other than the fact that we love rooting for everyone Black? It’s is the first time in the publication’s 37-year history.
It’s odd to still have these kinds of “firsts” in 2020, but 2020 taught us times hadn’t changed as much as we thought.
Vanity Fair’s historic issue comes on Vogue’s heels facing backlash over their Simone Biles’ issue. Shot by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, Black Twitter sounded off, claiming that Leibovitz doesn’t know how to capture dark skin complexions.
Another Twitter user posted an image of Biles, by photographer James Macari, in what she considered to be a better capture of the gymnast’s skin tone.
On the other hand, Calmese was praised for his images of Davis.
In an Instagram post, he thanked Davis for believing in his vision. “Welcome to my protest,” the Vanity Fair photographer captioned under an Instagram photo of Davis. “Thank you, @violadavis, for being my co-conspirator.”
Calmese, then, thanked the Vanity Fair team for believing in his vision and added a special thank you to Black women. “Thank you to every Black woman who’s felt invisible despite being on the front line of every fight,” Calmese continued. “We see you. You are loved, you are powerful, and you are beautiful. This is for you.”
Davis said Calmese described the shoot as “a re-creation of the Louis Agassiz slave portraits taken in the 1800s — the back, the welts. This image reclaims that narrative, transmuting the white gaze on Black suffering into the Black gaze of grace, elegance, and beauty.”
Going into depth in the interview about her childhood, Davis revealed she struggled to find her voice and beauty in her dark skin.
“Who’s telling a dark-skinned girl that she’s pretty? Nobody says it. I’m telling you, Sonia, nobody says it. The dark-skinned Black woman’s voice is so steeped in slavery and our history. If we did speak up, it would cost us our lives. Somewhere in my cellular memory was still that feeling—that I do not have the right to speak up about how I’m being treated, that somehow I deserve it.” She paused. “I did not find my worth on my own.”
Davis continues to use her platform to be a voice for young women who may be struggling to find their own beauty.
Davis also mentioned how desperately she wanted to attend protests for George Floyd but fear of the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined her.
“Both of us cried,” said friend Octavia Spencer who Vanity Fair tapped for a quote for Davis’ interview. “This was our civil rights movement, and we were sidelined because of health issues. We felt isolated from the movement.”
But they wouldn’t be defeated. Davis and Spencer joined a few others in their neighborhood and held a demonstration. The Academy award-nominated actress held up a sign that read “AHMAUD ARBERY.”
Davis’ life has been a protest. At least that’s how the masterful actress describes it.
“I feel like my entire life has been a protest. My production company is my protest. Me not wearing a wig at the Oscars in 2012 was my protest. It is a part of my voice, just like introducing myself to you and saying, ‘Hello, my name is Viola Davis.’” she said.
Davis continued to talk about her Hollywood journey and how she regrets starring in The Help.
“There’s no one who’s not entertained by The Help. But there’s a part of me that feels like I betrayed myself, and my people, because I was in a movie that wasn’t ready to [tell the whole truth],” Davis says. Like so many other movies, The Help was “created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism.”
Despite being nominated for an Oscar for the role, Davis says the gigs weren’t exactly rolling in.
“I always ask them, What movies? What were those movies?” she says with an incredulous shake of her head. “Listen, I got Widows”—the 2018 action thriller about a team of women who plan a heist—“but if I just relied on the Hollywood pipeline…. No, there are not those roles.”
Davis will portray Michelle Obama in the Showtime series First Ladies, a series described as a White House drama.
Read the full interview here.
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Viola Davis’ Vanity Fair Cover Was Shot By First Black Photographer was originally published on hellobeautiful.com