She applied for a scholarship that would allow her to spend the summer in The Gambia. In his application essay, Davis wrote about the burden of performance material that was not written for people like him. There was no cultural connection or recognition – she felt lost and indifferent. That summer, she was on a flight to West Africa with a group of people who wanted to study the music, dance, and folklore of the various tribes.
Soon after landing, he fell in love: the sea breeze, the faint scent of incense, the oranges and purples of twilight. The people of the Mandinka tribe with whom she went, embraced her group like her family. She went to a baby christening ceremony, a wrestling match; He saw women playing drums and dancing. His association with “classical training” melted away. Finally, after years of acting, she was seeing art, true talent. “I left Africa 15 pounds lighter, four shades deeper and so moved that I couldn’t go back to what it was,” she writes.
Her time at Juilliard was coming to an end, and she was eager to jump into a new chapter in her life, but the roles she auditioned for — even in black productions — were limited: only one The only role for which she was being considered seriously was that of a drug addict. She tried out for other parts, but the casting directors thought she was “too dark” and “not classically beautiful” enough to play a romantic role.
He’s had some plays, but he’s barely made enough money to live on, let alone paying off his tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. She survived on white rice from a Chinese restaurant, with $3 wings if she could afford it; She slept on a futon on the floor of a shared room.
Her agent asks her to audition for the touring company of August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” for the role of the strong-willed and guarded Vera, who must decide whether she can trust her cheating ex-boyfriend again. Is. She got the part, and after a year touring, she made her Broadway debut. She received a Tony nomination for the role, but her life was hardly glamorous. Some of her siblings, she writes, struggled with drugs or money issues, and her parents, still together, looked after some of their children. Davis sent as much money home as he could, with a sort of survivor’s guilt. “If I saved someone, I had found my purpose, and that’s the way it should have worked,” she said. “You take it out and go back to take everyone else out.”
After his success in “Seven Guitars”, theater parts came quickly, and he eventually earned enough money to afford premium health insurance. An operation to remove nine uterine fibroids gave her a small window of fertility. She was in her early 30s, and every kid passing by on the street wanted her their own, but she was only in two relationships, neither of them good, and none on the horizon. In the production of “A Raisin in the Sun” one of his classmates encourages him to ask God for a good man. One night, she got down on her knees: “God, you haven’t heard from me in a long time. I know you’re surprised. My name is Viola Davis.” She went through his requests: a black man, a former athlete, someone from the country who already had children. A few weeks later, on the set of a television show, Julius Tennon — a handsome, divorced Black actor from Texas with two grown children — played opposite her in a scene.
Within four years, they were married. But fertility challenges kept coming: This time she had a myomectomy to remove 33 fibroids. It felt like the women in his family had been cursed. Two of her sisters nearly bled after delivery and had hysterectomies. A few years later, she also had one – during an operation on an abscessed fallopian tube. (Before walking downstairs, she told the surgeon, “If I wake up and my uterus is still here, I’m going to kick your ass.”) With Tenon, she eventually adopted a daughter, Genesis, partner. Inspired by actress Lorraine Toussaint, who adopted a child because she didn’t want “series regular” to be the only word on her tombstone.