Viola Davis On Life in Poverty, Reminds Herself She's Not Poor Anymore

Viola Davis

Viola Davis may be one of Hollywood's biggest stars, but she hasn't forgotten where she came from — or what she's been through.

The star of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom sat down with Jon Wertheim for CBS News' 60 Minutes in an episode that originally aired in December, but re-aired last weekend ahead of the Academy Awards and talked candidly about the film, her career, and growing up in poverty in Rhode Island.

"There was one apartment that we lived in that was just infested with rats," said Davis. "They were everywhere. They were in the cabinets, they were in the walls, they were under our beds. And just never having any food."

When asked why she was able to be so open about her experiences with poverty, Davis explained that she believes "there's a lot of shame involved with poverty" so she speaks out to combat that.

"That you wouldn't be poor if you did the right thing. When you're poor what happens is it seeps through your mind. It's not just a financial state. It's an invisibility state. It's a worthlessness state," she shared. "I always have to tell myself that I'm not poor anymore, that I'm not that girl anymore. But at the same time, I have to honor that young girl."

Notably, the segment paid homage to the 55-year-old holding the Triple Crown of Acting - an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony in an acting category. Out of the 24 performers who have earned their Triple Crown, Davis is the youngest and first Black person to do so.

While an incredible achievement, Davis doesn't shy away from talking about what it took to get there — particularly the "fight" that Black actors in Hollywood have to contend with.

"Even after you so-called have 'made it,' it's still a fight every single day. And what we're fighting as African Americans, we're fighting the movie-making business that has already decided who you are and how you're marketable," she said. "I could deal with you if you're just a part of the story, but you're just a secondary part of the story, you're not the main focus."


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