“When the actress removed her makeup and wig on an episode of “How to Get Away With Murder” last year, it was a powerful and poignant moment, not just for her character Annalise Keating, but for black women on TV. Over the 15-episode season of the hit Shonda Rhimes drama, Davis’s performance challenged stereotypes about black women by simultaneously displaying vulnerability and strength.
But the 50-year-old Davis has been most vocal about her character’s unapologetic sexual nature, as conveyed through volatile relationships with her husband and lover. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Davis points out that before playing Annalise, she had never seen black women who looked like her – dark-skinned and middle-aged – allowed to be sexual in movies or television. She said:
There were lot of things that people did not allow me to be until I got [the role of] Annalise Keating. I was not able to be sexualized. Ever. In my entire career. And here’s the thing that’s even more potent: I’ve never seen anyone who even looks like me be sexualized on television or in film. Ever. When people say they’re tired of hearing that, I always say, ‘Okay, well, you give me an example and then I’ll stop talking about it. But I’m gonna talk about it until you hear it.’
Note to readers: I routinely post about the sexualization of women in an objectifying manner. Here Davis isn’t asking for black women to be objectified, but rather to be shown as empowered sexual agents.