Viola Davis looked stunning as she accepted her award for Favorite TV Actress in a New TV Series at the People’s Choice Awards on Wednesday, and she solidified her spot as a fan favorite when she took the opportunity to deliver a flawless jab at a controversial article published last fall by The New York Times.
Davis has been making headline after headline as the star of Shonda Rhimes’ latest hit TV show How to Get Away With Murder.
It’s a casting decision that many people have praised and celebrated along with the show’s incredible success, but at one point Davis and Rhimes were the subjects of an offensive article penned by The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley.
In the article, Stanley referred to Rhimes as an “angry black woman” and applauded her for hiring an actress who was “older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful” than someone like actress Kerry Washington.
Rhimes already delivered her own pitch-perfect response to the article, but Davis made it clear that she had not forgotten about the offensive comment.
After thanking all the fans who voted for her, she went on to thank Rhimes herself.
“Thank you, Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers and Peter Nowalk for thinking of a leading lady who looks like my classic beauty,” Davis said.
It’s a comment that reminded everyone in the room that the controversy surrounding the article wasn’t about offending Davis, it was about the unfortunate message that The New York Times had just embraced.
The entire article was filled with stereotypes and other comments that were problematic for their own reasons, but the comment about Davis was a telling sign of how the media still tends to perceive Black women in entertainment and critically assess their beauty based on the standards of young, white women.
It’s why a fairer-skinned, younger Washington with long straight hair was considered less of a casting surprise than the dark-skinned, older woman who has become known for the way she embraces her natural hair even on the red carpet.
Back in September when Rhimes caught sight of the article, she took to Twitter to respond to the critic who deemed her an “angry black woman.”
“Confused why @nytimes critic doesn’t know identity of CREATOR of show she’s reviewing. @petenowa did u know u were ‘an angry black woman’?” one tweet read.
She followed up with, “Apparently we can be ‘angry black women’ together, because I didn’t know I was one either! @petenowa #LearnSomethingNewEveryday.”
The most popular tweet from Rhimes, however, read, “Wait. I’m ‘angry’ AND a ROMANCE WRITER?!! I’m going to need to put down the internet and go dance this one out. Because ish is getting real.”