Viola Davis’s EGOT status shows lack of representation in entertainment industry


Karrington Garland, Opinions Editor

Viola Davis is a woman of many talents. Every performance I have seen her in has been a testament to the vast and different lives of Black women.

She owns the roles she decided to play, even those that don’t portray Black women or members of the Black community in a positive light.

Davis noted in an interview with the BBC back in 2020 that her work in “The Help” felt like a betrayal to herself and her community since it portrayed the lives of Black maids in Mississippi during the 1960s, but in doing so, catered to a white audience.

“The Help” was essentially made so white audiences could digest the racism and tension happening during this time, but not in a way that makes any of them confront America’s long history of racial tension.

In 2015, Davis received an Emmy for “How to Get Away With Murder.” And although I never made it past the first two episodes, my friends and my mother at the time all had a deep love and interest in the show and her character, Annalise Keating.

I’ve always admired Davis’s craft and the roles she decides to take. Her performance in “Fences” is my all-time favorite of hers.

The way she and Denzel Washington carry their characters and bring them to life in that film is visceral. It is an ode to the many Black men and women who all relate to their lives in some way. 

Davis earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “Fences” in 2017.

Her Oscar for the film was a well-deserved award for a performance that made me both cry and rethink the ways in which my relationships with my own family members have been shaped and tainted by the dreams my parents never got to achieve.

She also received a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play for both the stage rendition of “Fences” in 2010 and for her role in “King Hedley II” in 2001.

In 2017, Davis was recognized as the Most Nominated Black Actress in Oscar history by Zack Sharf of IndieWire.

Being the most nominated Black actress at that time, with just four nominations under her belt, showed the lack of representation in the film industry and called into question the small number of roles and stories there are for Black women in the industry.

Yet, just six years later, Davis has entered a coveted status in the entertainment world: EGOT status. This status has only been achieved by 18 people. EGOT status is attainable if someone in the entertainment industry has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.

At the 65th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 5, Davis won the award for Best Audiobook, Narration and Storytelling Recording for her book, “Finding Me,” which is a memoir detailing her childhood and how she became the person she is today. 

Davis’s Grammy win marks her as the third Black woman and fourth Black person to reach EGOT status. 

Those who came before her include Whoppi Goldberg, John Legend and Jennifer Hudson. With three Black women reaching this status in the entertainment industry, it says a lot about the impact and influence that Black women have on film, TV and music.

It also shows a need for further representation and opportunities for more women and minorities to come into the industry.

Stories about Black and brown people need to be told authentically and not through the lens and perspective of the white majority, who cannot speak on the lives of minorities as they do not walk in their shoes.

Davis understands this need in the entertainment world, and I hope with the achievement of her new status, she continues to fight for more opportunities for Black and brown women and men to be able to tell their own stories.