When I tell my daughter stories at night, inevitably, a few things happen. Number one, I use my imagination, I always start with life and then I build from there. And then the other thing that happens is she always says “Mommy… Can you put me in the story?” So, I’d like to thank Paul Lee, Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, Bill D’Elia and Peter Nowalk, for thinking that a sexualized, messy, mysterious woman could be a 49 year old dark-skinned African American woman who looks like me. —Viola Davis,SAG Awards 2015.
Only three women of color have won Best Female Actor in a TV Drama at the SAG Awards and they all come from shows Shonda Rhimes produces
Sandra Oh won for her role as Christina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy in 2006
“…and I want to thank, especially to our creator Shonda Rhimes whose casting vision I believe in so wholeheartedly, I’m really proud to be on a show whose casting is a little more representative of how I think the world is. To all my fellow Asian-American actors out there, I share this with you, and be encouraged and keep shining. Thank you very much.”
Chandra Wilson won for her role as Miranda Bailey in Grey’s Anatomy in 2007
“…thanks for this award, especially on behalf of my daughters, who I want to know, with this nose, this height, this color skin, these arms.. look what you can accomplish.”
Viola Davis won for her role as Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder in 2015
"…thank you for thinking that a sexualized, messy, mysterious woman could be a 49-year-old, dark-skinned, African-American woman who looks like me.”
plot aside, how to get away with murder has a gay couple, two interracial couples, a focus on mental illness, and a main cast of all different races and ages. and them being gay and black and mentally ill isn’t the plot, it’s just what they are
I’ve often said that when you start looking into the backgrounds of the mainstream Black actresses in Hollywood, you will find a set of credentials that, to me, highlight the Black Tax and how it may be uniquely applied to Black women who wish to act. Considering the percentage of the country in general who has a degree and the backgrounds of other actors, you cannot convince me it is a coincidence that this much excellence and education was required of Black women in particular, just to be given the opportunity to fight for a chance.
That being said… i’d like to celebrate these women.
left to right and top to bottom…
1) Kerry Washington (Scandal, Save The Last Dance, She Hate Me, Ray, Fantastic Four, Django Unchained, For Colored Girls, The Last King of Scotland, etc) - graduated Phi Beta Kappa from George Washington University with a double major in Anthropology and Sociology. Received an honorary doctorate from there in 2013.
2) Taraji P. Henson (Empire, Person of Interest, Boston Legal, The Division, No Good Deed, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Hustle & Flow, Baby Boy, etc … for real the list is long as hell) - graduated with a degree in Theatre Arts from Howard University
3) Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave) - Masters of Fine Arts from Yale School of Drama, BA in Film and Theatre Studies from Hampshire College
4) Viola Davis (How To Get Away With Murder, Law & Order: SVU, City of Angels, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Law Abiding Citizen, Beautiful Creatures, Eat Pray Love, Antwone Fisher, etc… also several Broadway credits… she’s a baddie basically) - Attended Julliard for 4 years, graduated from Rhode Island College with a degree in Theatre and received an honorary doctorate from there in 2002.
5) Angela Bassett (American Horror Story, ER, What’s Love Got To Do With It, Notorious, The Jacksons: An American Dream, Akeelah and the Bee, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Waiting To Exhale, Boyz In The Hood…ETC.. y’all it goes back to 1986… like… bow to a Queen when you see one) - Master of Fine Arts from Yale School of Drama, BA in African-American Studies from Yale University
6) Octavia Spencer (Red Band Society, Ugly Betty, Halfway Home, Fruitvale Station, The Help, etec.) - Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts from Auburn University
7) Nicole Beharie (Sleepy Hollow, 42, American Violet, My Last Day Without You, A Free Man of Color [Broadway]) - Julliard for 4 years, got the Shakespeare scholarship and trained in England
8) Retta (Parks and Recreation) - pre-med with a Sociology degree from Duke University, worked as a chemist with GlaxoSmithKline.
9) Jerrika Hinton (Grey’s Anatomy) - Bachelor of Fine Arts from Southern Methodist University
10) Regina Hall (Law & Order: Los Angeles, Ally McBeal, Think Like A Man, Think Like A Man Too, Best Man, Best Man Holiday, The Scary Movie Franchise) - Masters in Journalism from NYU
Gabrielle Union (Being Mary Jane, Flash Forward, Night Stalker, City of Angels, Top Five, Think Like A Man, Think Like A Man Too, Bring It On, Daddy’s Little Girls, Cadillac Records, Two Can Play That Game, etc) - graduated from UCLA with a degree in Sociology.
Danielle Brooks (Orange Is The New Black, first Black woman on Girls [a show that started in 2012 mind you..]) - graduated from Julliard.
Samira WIley (Orange Is The New Black) - Julliard grad.
Uzoamaka Nwaneka “Uzo” Aduba (Orange Is The New Black) - studied voice at Boston University and is a Broadway veteran.
not an actor, but still:
Shonda Rhimes - writer, show creator, producer (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Private Practice, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Crossroads, Princess Diaries 2) - Master of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California, majored in English and film studies at Dartmouth College and received an honorary doctorate from there in 2014.