Viola Davis, the Oscar-winning actress known for her powerhouse performances in films like Doubt and Fences over the course of her 30-year career, feels like her life has finally come full-circle.
"I'm the girl who lost the Miss Central Falls Recreation Contest," she laughs, recounting her first beauty pageant at six years old. (She still remembers the full name of the girl who won.) Now, 48 years later, Davis says she feels more beautiful and powerful than ever.
Today, Davis was announced as the newest international spokesperson for L'Oréal Paris, a brand that's told women "Because You're Worth It" since 1973. At this stage of her life, Davis feels more equipped to spread that message than ever before. "It does not escape me that it’s come to me at this part of my life," Davis tells me over the phone. "It’s a beautiful opportunity and responsibility to be able to spread the self-affirming message of worth to women around the world, and for my face to be attached to that self-affirming message."
Davis feels a great deal of responsibility partly because she understands how hard it can be to recognise your worth, especially with the societal messages that bombard women in particular.
"I thought the only way for people to see me was when I was on the red carpet," Davis says. "I could wear the dress, I could wear the lipstick. I was trying to show that I was good enough. I think that is too much of an ongoing narrative out there: that you get your worth from something on the outside. Really, if it’s not coming from within, it's coming from no place."
That's part of what makes Davis' partnership with L'Oréal (she previously worked with Vaseline) feel so vitally important. Even though, yes, her face will be used to sell products like Age Perfect Moisturizers, she wants to spread the narrative that beauty isn't just the result of a few great products.
"Listen, does beauty have to do with lotions and lipsticks and perfumes? Sure," Davis tells me. "But the palette that you’re starting with is you. The palette that you’re starting with is the most beautiful palette. It’s 99.9% of your beauty. You can't forget it."
In partnering with a global drugstore brand, she'll also be able to spread that message to millions of people who haven't yet seen themselves represented in mass beauty marketing. "I hope that they see that this is a different trajectory that beauty is going into," Davis says. "The fact that you can be darker than a paper bag and that is not attached to anything negative. The fact that you can be of a certain age. I hope that in me they see themselves."
In her personal life, Davis is a self-professed skin-care fanatic, turning daily steam showers into a sort of ritual. "When I come home every night, I don't care how tired I am, I always do a steam," she says. "My husband waits for me. We put on our masks in the shower and we put on the lavender oils and then I wash my face again and turn on the light, walk out, and look in the mirror. I always feel like if I can get my skin looking pretty, I feel cute."
With her new role at L'Oréal, Davis hopes to inspire future generations, including her own nine-year-old daughter, Genesis, to shift how they view their own beauty and self worth.
"I've done the work on myself so that I can pass on the message of worthiness and beauty coming from within, which is what I'm telling everyone now," Davis says. "I have a lot of hope because I think that women are getting it: Our worth is not attached to just the physical."