Viola Davis Reveals How Poverty Motivated Her

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage
That crazy Best Picture mix-up may have been the most talked about event of Oscars Sunday, but it was hardly the most special moment of the night. Viola Davis took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Fences — she's now just a trophy shy of EGOT status! — and delivered an acceptance speech so beautiful some believe it deserved its own Emmy.
Davis spoke about her experience growing up in poverty and how all she ever wanted was to "be somebody." Now, the actress is once again discussing her challenging childhood in People's new cover story — and how it motivated her to succeed.
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Speaking to the magazine, Davis explained that her family was so poor that she only had a single photo of herself as a child. While photos may not exist, Davis doesn't need them: She very much remembers how she used to live. She told People: “I was the kind of poor where I knew right away I had less than everyone around me...[We had] shoddy plumbing and no phone and no food and rats and all of that. That very much was visible to me.”
Davis explained to People that living this way gave her the motivation to succeed and pull herself out of poverty. “I chose from a very young age that I didn’t want that for my life. And it very much has helped me appreciate and value the things that are in my life now because I never had it. A yard, a house, great plumbing, a full refrigerator, things that people take for granted, I don’t.”
Some accuse famous people — especially those honored at ceremonies like the Oscars — as being out of touch with struggling Americans. For Davis, however, it's her struggle that has made her the woman she is today. She may be an Academy Award winner, but she'll never forget what it was like to once go without — which is why she's an ambassador for initiative Hunger Is, an organization dedicated to building awareness and raising funds to eradicate childhood hunger. In September 2015, she spoke to AARP about her own experience with hunger, and why she chose this organization: "Most of the time, the school lunch was the only meal I had. I would befriend kids whose mothers cooked three meals a day and go to their homes when I could."
It's wonderful to know that now that Davis has more than she needs, she's determined to share her story — and give back to those still struggling to survive.
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