Finding Me - by Viola Davis


Finding Me - by Viola Davis

Read: 2024-03-08

Recommend: 6/10

I discovered Viola Davis through a video discussing EGOT winners—an exclusive group who have won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards. Reading her memoir revealed her challenging journey as an underprivileged black woman, which I found inspiring.


Here are some text that I highlighted in the book:

  1. The next day, it took every bone, muscle, and cell in my body to walk after that bell rang. I could hear the voices of the boys behind me. I could feel their rage. The hate. But I walked extra slow. So slow I barely moved. My fingers were wrapped around that shiny blue crochet needle in my pocket. The voices got louder and closer. Finally, I felt one grab my arm violently, and an anger, a finality, an exhaustion came over me. I whispered, “If you don’t get your hands off me, I’ll jug you.” He looked at me terrified, searching my face to see if I meant it. I did. He let me go and the rest of them walked away laughing. The ritual of chasing the nappy-headed Black girl had suddenly lost its luster.

  2. For my speaking gigs, the title of my presentations is always the same: “The Journey of a Hero.” I learned from writer Joseph Campbell that a hero is someone born into a world where they don’t fit in. They are then summoned on a call to an adventure that they are reluctant to take. What is the adventure? A revolutionary transformation of self. The final goal is to find the elixir. The magic potion that is the answer to unlocking HER. Then she comes “home” to this ordinary life transformed and shares her story of survival with others.

  3. The only weapon I have to blast through it all is forgiveness. It’s giving up all hope of a different past.

  4. There are not enough pages to mention the fights, the constantly being awakened in the middle of the night or coming home after school to my dad’s rages and praying he wouldn’t lose so much control that he would kill my mom.

  5. The blood on the floor that belonged to my mom or blood on the streets from the damaged souls that we encountered needed mounds of salve. And we didn’t have the knowledge or tools to grasp that. We just . . . didn’t.

  6. You’re expected to be clean not celebrated. The invisibility of the one-two punch that is Blackness and poverty is brutal. Mix that with being hungry all the damn time and it becomes combustible.

  7. She never explained to me or to the class that it was illegal during slavery to teach the enslaved to read and write. It was a way to keep them subjugated.

  8. We. Were. Going. To. College. She instilled in us that if we did not have a college degree, if we did not find something to do, if we did not focus, if we did not have drive, we were going to be like our parents. I felt if I did not go to college, if I did not get a degree, if I was not excellent, then my parents’ reality would become my own. There was no gray area. Either you achieved or you failed.

  9. I don’t know specifically how I came into my truth, but I’m pretty sure other caring people had a lot to do with it: counselors in the Upward Bound program and my sister Deloris who constantly asked me, “Why aren’t you acting?” Until finally, one day in my second year, I said, “You know what, I’m just going to do it.” That was when much of the depression fell away. The cure was courage. The courage to dare, risking failure. I decided I was going to be a theater major and I was going to be an actor.

  10. College was an interesting experience of not fitting in with the white kids and not fitting in with the Black kids. Harambee was the school’s Black Student Coalition. Even though I knew a lot of the Black folk, went to the Ebony Fashion Fair and all of that, I didn’t fit in with them because I was from Central Falls and those Black kids were from South Providence or Providence or Middletown, areas where there were more Black people. It was as if I didn’t have my Black Card.

  11. Working hard is great when it’s motivated by passion and love and enthusiasm. But working hard when it’s motivated by deprivation is not pleasant.

  12. There’s a bartering, desperation factor attached to that. Let me prove to you that I have talent instead of just, being. Forget about the dark-skinned girl who just walked into the audition room. Let me use my training and technique to make you “forget” that I’m Black. The extent of that obstacle is way more burdensome than the obstacles placed in front of my white counterparts. White students just had to show up and be good. There was no transforming to make you believe that this Rhode Islander could actually be Russian in a play by a Russian playwright. They simply had to be, well, white. This obstacle would be the four-hundred-pound gorilla that would constantly inhabit the various rooms I entered throughout my life.

  13. We were trained in speech, voice, Alexander technique, movement, and scene study.

  14. The reality and social media fantasy of being an actor are diametrically opposed. Most actors don’t want to be an artist—they want to be famous. Many believe if they’re pretty, young, have a great agent, then “Voila!” It’s a business that is way more fickle than that. No words can describe that one-two combo of luck meeting talent. Me? I just wanted to work. I didn’t want to go back to Rhode Island. I compared going back to death.

  15. If you have a choice between auditioning for a great role over a bad role, you are privileged. That means not only do you have a top agent who can get you in, you are at a level that you would be considered for it. Our profession at any given time has a 95 percent unemployment rate. Only 1 percent of actors make $50,000 a year or more and only 0.04 percent of actors are famous, and we won’t get into defining famous. The 0.04 percent are the stories you read about in the media. “Being picky,” “dropping agents,” making far less than male counterparts. Never having any regrets in terms of roles they’ve taken. Yada, yada, yada.

  16. I just threw out a random statement, “I wonder why I keep meeting assholes?” She looked right through me and said, “Did you ever think it could be you?”

  17. Fame is a vapor. Popularity is an accident. Riches takes wings. And only one thing remains . . . CHARACTER.” —HORACE GREELEY

  18. A believer but . . . not a believer in my worthiness.