Viola Davis' Critics' Choice Awards speech was self-deprecating yet empowering

Dec 11, 2016 at 11:41 p.m. ET
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An exciting new award was given out at the 2016 Critics' Choice Awards, and it was solely dedicated to women in media.

Awarded to Viola Davis, the #SeeHer award rewards women working to eliminate gender bias in media through their work in film and television. Davis received the #SeeHer award because she "embodies the values set forth by the #SeeHer mission, including pushing boundaries on changing stereotypes and her recognition of the importance of accurately portraying women across the entertainment landscape. "Davis has consistently received rave reviews for her work in films like Doubt, The Help and this year's Fences.

The #SeeHer award is laser-focused on rewarding women's efforts in an industry that has regularly made it difficult for women to thrive (but thrive they do). Often, Davis' roles are directly tied to race and womanhood, so Davis' ability to not only thrive but receive critical praise over and over for her work is a true testament to changing attitudes toward female actors of color as well as her own power.

More: 10 things about Viola Davis you probably didn't know


When presented with the award by Doubt co-star Amy Adams, Davis not only accepted it with grace, but she gave one of the best speeches at the awards ceremony. Adams noted in her introduction of the award that "we look for heroes, we look for role models. Media and entertainment play such a key role in how women and girls see themselves," and went on to add that Davis "believes that you don’t live someone else’s life, someone else’s idea of what womanhood is. Womanhood is everything that’s inside of you.” 

More: Viola Davis opens up about shockingly tough childhood and extreme poverty


Davis' speech drove home that very important fact, whether or not she blatantly said it. Her speech was, as is typical of her, thoroughly empowering and incredibly feminist. At first she joked that "it’s hard to accept being a role model for women when you’re trying to lose weight,” but went on to make a more serious and beautiful statement about her work.

"I truly believe the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, and I just recently embraced that at 51. I think my strongest power is that, at 10 every Thursday night, I want you to come into my world. I am 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. 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.” 

More: Viola Davis' Women Making History speech reveals her mission for women of color

Despite her self-deprecation, Davis' speech was yet again an empowering one. Choosing to highlight the importance of self-love and self-confidence, Davis' own self-empowerment came through in her speech. She wasn't quick to let herself off the hook and take a moment to rest on her laurels. It was hard not to notice that this award really meant something to her. It's deserved, to be sure; how can you deny the power of a performance from Davis?


While it's necessary to focus on why Davis is so worthy, it must also be said that the #SeeHer award is a truly revolutionary and watershed moment for awards of any kind. To focus solely on the affects women can have in film and television — in the stories they tell, the characters they portray and the experiences they impress upon viewers — and further focus on how those women reverse harmful gender bias makes it a truly special award.

What was your favorite part of Davis' speech? Let us know in the comments below!

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

Critics Choice Awards winners slideshow
Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images