Viola Davis Talks the Beauty in Growing Older and How She Builds her Daughter’s Self Esteem

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Multi-award-winning actress Viola Davis is the new face of beauty brand L’Oréal. The actress sat down with Essence to explain the beauty of aging and how she helps build her daughter’s self-worth.

Davis’ fond memories of the beauty brand are what inspired her to become an ambassador.

“I was in my twenties, and I just remember being startled looking at the television and it saying ‘You’re worth it,'” Davis tells Essence. “I remember it startling me, you know? There’s certain words that when they’re put together, they startle you, and they startled me, especially as a beauty campaign.”

For Davis, L’Oréal’s usage of self-affirmations left her in awe. This was the first time she has ever seen women declaring and defining beauty for themselves.

“Back in the day, there was like all these beauty campaigns, and I remember looking at those women going, “Oh, they’re beautiful or whatever,” Davis says. “But it was L’ Oreal, and that whole affirmation of you’re worth it, that literally startled me. I attributed high cheekbones, youth, hair, and fitness to beauty. I never realized that how God made you is worth it. That was the first aha moment.”

The Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom actress has found the liberation in aging. She is still aware of the pressures the entertainment industry puts on her beauty.

“I love my age,” Davis declares. “Even when I was younger, I’d look in the face of Helen Mirren and Jane Fonda and Cicely Tyson, and all I’d see was beauty. But yes, the industry does put a lot of pressure on you. There’s a feeling like you’re no longer valuable when you get older. I don’t feel that our society has embraced what comes with aging. They think that you just get old, we don’t value wisdom and we don’t value experience.”

Although her acting career is dependant upon her looks, for Davis aging perfect is liberating from those societal constraints.

“Liberation is a powerful tool,” Davis explains. “Because really at the end of the day, once again, I go back to L’Oréal’s saying “Age Perfect.” Coming through the other side of looking in the mirror and literally knowing that you’re worth it, you don’t have the barter for it. You don’t have to do anything to earn it; you literally are worth it just the way you are.”

The lack of representation and societal definitions of beauty is what propels Davis to try daring makeup and hairstyles.

“The thing that gives me a lot of courage to experiment with beauty how I see fit is Viola as a little girl,” says Davis. “Viola, as a little girl, had nothing to counter what society was telling me about myself. They said that I was too dark, that I was ugly. Therefore, I was not even on the radar of beauty, and I never realized how much damage that did to me.”

“Now I can look back at 55 at the six-year-old Viola,” Davis continues. “And I want to honor her. I can’t honor her by going out there saying, “Oh, I’m still not pretty enough, I’m too old.” I can honor her the way I honor my daughter and other young people by looking at that six-year-old Viola and reconciling her beauty and going back and literally saying, “Viola, you were beautiful.” 

The timeless beauty shares how she helps to instill the same self-love ingrained in herself in her daughter.

“Constant affirmations,” Davis shares. “Constantly giving her permission to share what’s going on inside of her in a safe space — which is with me and her father. Like I tell her, “We’re going to love you more than anyone else in your life is going to love you, even the love of your life.”

“I want to share my story with my daughter and tell the truth about what I’ve experienced in my life. There are seeds, and they are breadcrumbs I can give her to help her live better. I share my mistakes with her, and I apologize because…no parent actually ever apologized when I was growing up. I’m showing her that there is the power of forgiveness, the power of redemption.”