Black Photographer Shoots Viola Davis for Vanity Fair Cover

Black Photographer Shoots Viola Davis for Vanity Fair Cover

Viola Davis Graces Vanity Fair’s July/August edition, which is shot by the first Black photographer to shoot a V.F. cover.

Although this is Dario Calmese’s first magazine cover, he’s previously shot Billy Porter and Broadway star Adrienne Warren, as well as other publications including The New York Times and CBS.

Davis sat down with Sonia Saraiya to discuss her rise to fame, her childhood, and systematic racism after recent BLM protests following the death of George Floyd.

“My entire life has been a protest,” Davis said. “My production company is my protest. Me not wearing a wig at the Oscars in 2012 was my protest. It is a part of my voice, just like introducing myself to you and saying, ‘Hello, my name is Viola Davis.'”

Vanity Fair editor in chief Radhika Jones talked about the magazine’s influence in culture in her editor’s letter and shared how the idea behind the cover was “a re-creation of the Louis Agassiz slave portraits taken in the 1800s — the back, the welts. This image reclaims that narrative, transmuting the white gaze on Black suffering into the Black gaze of grace, elegance, and beauty.”

Aside from discussing her own involvement in the BLM protests, Viola also shared how it was growing up for her. She spoke about her struggle finding her voice especially as a dark-skinned black woman coming from a rough household.

“Who’s telling a dark-skinned girl that she’s pretty? Nobody says it. I’m telling you, Sonia, nobody says it. The dark-skinned Black woman’s voice is so steeped in slavery and our history. If we did speak up, it would cost us our lives. Somewhere in my cellular memory was still that feeling—that I do not have the right to speak up about how I’m being treated, that somehow I deserve it.” She pauses. “I did not find my worth on my own.”

Davis recently finished her role in #TGIT’s “How to Get Away With Murder,” and is set to play Michelle Obama and blues legend Ma Rainey. To read the full article, click here. 

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