Viola Davis was a huge deal at Sunday's Critics' Choice Awards: She was nominated for best actress for How to Get Away with Murder, won best supporting actress for the movie Fences and received the first annual #SeeHer award, an honorary award given by an ad industry group seeking to eliminate bias against women in advertising and media.
In accepting the award, Davis gave an inspiring speech about her career. She opened by saying "It's hard to accept being a role model for women when you're trying to lose weight," underscoring how far the culture still has to go before it really accepts women.
She talked about how landing the sexy, mysterious role of Annalise Keating on Murder was such a departure from her career to the point, saying "I'm used to playing women who gotta gain 40 pounds and wear an apron." She said she told herself that she had to lose weight and learn how to walk in heels — "and then I asked myself, 'Well, why do I have to do all that?'"
"I truly believe that the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are," Davis added. "And I just recently embraced that at 51. I think my strongest power is that at 10 o'clock every Thursday night, I want you to come into my world. I'm not going to come into yours. You come into my world and you sit with me — my size, my hue, my age — and you sit. And you experience. And I think that's the only power I have as an artist, so I thank you for this award, and I do see her, just like I see me."
When Davis won the Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama in 2015, she gave a similarly powerful speech addressing what it means to be the first woman of color to win a best actress Emmy, saying: "The only thing that separates women of color from anything else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there."