Viola Davis is getting candid about the evolution of beauty standards. During her appearance at the 76th annual Cannes Film Festival, the EGOT winner opened up to PEOPLE about beauty and mental health.
“I think beauty standards have changed,” Davis, 57, began. “I think that what’s shifted is that whole idea of mental health being associated with beauty [and] of understanding who we are beyond male desirability.”
She then reinforced her stance on the perception of being a “classic beauty,” which she has publicly called out over the years. “What destroyed me was people constantly telling me that I was not beautiful,” said Davis. “[You might think] why would you be upset with that? Because beauty is attached with worth and value. And I refuse to believe that I’m not worth it just based on a sort of idea and perception of what people think classical beauty is.”
The best-selling author continued, “Now women are encouraged to speak their truth a little bit more. We see that with sexual assault, with mental illness, with being burnt-out mamas, with following our dreams and our hopes that we have for our lives. Back in the day, we hid our pain behind perfectly applied lipstick and wax floors. Now we don’t do that anymore. We’re saying this is who we are, beyond the makeup and the hair. I see that. I see that with my daughter’s generation.”
Davis has been sharing her wisdom with her 12-year-old daughter, Genesis, but the conversation isn’t as easy as one may think.
“I told my daughter this morning that she has to have a love affair with herself. That she is indeed the love of her life […] You have to advocate for yourself. You have to show up for her. It’s in showing up when someone hurts you. Creating boundaries and when someone crosses it. Show up for yourself.’ No one ever taught me that,” explained the How To Get Away With Murder star.
In addition to evolving society’s outlook on beauty, Davis hopes that roles for Black women over 50 also evolve beyond the matriarchal trope.
“I play a lot of moms. Everyone wants me to play their mom […] When it comes to Black women who are over 50, then that is when [the lack of interesting roles is] problematic. That’s when it is a vast desert. Women are no longer begging for a seat at the table, they’re creating their own. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Kerry Washington, Issa Rae, Michaela Coel, Halle Berry, Keke Palmer, we can keep going on and on—even Marsai Martin, who is what, 18?—they’re empowering themselves by understanding that they’re the change that they want to see.”
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