Our first Fierce cover girl is having an amazing year. She turned the big 5-0 on Aug. 11 and celebrated by posing for the cover of AARP: The Magazine, proclaiming that she is she is “living her dream.”
The second season of her hit show “How to Get Away with Murder” airs this month, and tonight the two-time Tony winner is up for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her star turn as the brilliant, sexy, sensitive and deeply flawed attorney Annalise Keating. If she wins, she will be the first black woman to take home the top award.
Davis, who faces formidable competition from Taraji P. Henson, who portrays Cookie Lyon on “Empire,” is the critic’s favorite to win. As Keating, she exhibits the range and depth of talent that has made her a quiet legend in her industry. One minute she’s a broken, weeping wife, the next she’s pure fury in the face of betrayal, before she fixes her eye makeup, adjusts her wig and spellbinds a courtroom to win another case.
Yet, as much as she is enjoying her success on the small screen, Davis lets AARP know that it is her escape from childhood poverty and self-doubt that she cherishes. Of her young life in Rhode Island she says, “what I saw [looking at photos] at that time was dark skin, being poor and all the things that come with poverty — smelling and being unkempt. … Now I see how passionate I was. How much I dreamed and what a good and loyal friend I was.”
Joy and Giving Back
Now with husband, actor Julius Tennon, and daughter, Genesis, at the center of her life and a career that seems unstoppable, Davis has added one more, very important dimension to her life.
Even though she is far from the hunger and cold that haunted her family in her youth, she works to save other children from the same fate. Davis is now in her second year as an ambassador for Safeway’s Hunger Is campaign to raise awareness and fight childhood hunger.
“After an incredibly successful inaugural year with Hunger Is,” Davis says, “I am grateful to keep the momentum in finding a solution to a problem that is too often forgotten. We have the opportunity to change so many young lives for the better and I look forward to the day when this is no longer an issue in our country.”
She has come a million miles since her days winning talent shows in Central Falls, R.I., but even as she enjoys her gorgeous Los Angeles home, Davis has not forgotten where she comes from or the millions of other little girls who dream, passionately, of better days.
Shining on Both Sides of the Camera
In costume design, screenwriting, producing and acting, African-American women are following their dreams and shining on both sides of the camera. Many are nominees — some in the same categories — for the 67th annual Emmy Awards, which airs at 8 p.m. ET this evening on Fox.
This is the first time that two African-American women, Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson, have been nominated at the same time for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. A win would also be historic, with a black woman winning the top honor for the first time.
In a tale of polar-opposite screen moms, Cicely Tyson is up against Khandi Alexander, the diabolical Mama Pope on “Scandal” for Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series. As Ophelia Hartness who gets her daughter told on “How to Get Away With Murder,” Tyson evoked fond memories among women who sat on the floor between their mothers’ legs as they lovingly scratched and oiled their scalps.
Regina King, Angela Bassett and Mo’Nique are also contenders for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie.
Queen Latifah’s passion project, the HBO film Bessie, received 12 Emmy nominations, including her lead actress nod. Bessie, for which she also served as an executive producer, already won four times in earlier presentations at the recent Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Bessie also has two nominations for director and screenwriter Dee Rees, whose debut feature film, Pariah, won Excellence in Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Rita McGhee and Sukari McGill have costume design nominations for making Henson as Cookie Lyons look fly and fabulous on “Empire,” and the technical team for the episode of “Saturday Night Live” that Henson hosted in real life also won a Creative Arts Emmy.
Here’s a list of African-American women who are Emmy nominees tonight:
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
- Viola Davis as Annalise Keating in “How to Get Away With Murder”
- Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon in “Empire”
Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series
- Cicely Tyson as Ophelia Hartness in “How to Get Away With Murder”
- Khandi Alexander as Maya Pope in “Scandal”
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or A Movie
- Regina King as as Aliyah Shadeed in “American Crime”
- Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree in “American Horror Story: Freak Show”
- Mo’Nique as Ma Rainey in Bessie
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie
- Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in Bessie
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special
- Dee Rees
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special
- Dee Rees, Screenplay and Story
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
- Niecy Nash as Denise ‘Didi’ Ortley in “Getting On”
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
- Uzo Aduba as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in “Orange Is the New Black”
Outstanding Special Class Program: Beyoncé and Jay Z “On the Run”
- Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, executive producer/performer
- Chaka Pilgrim, executive producer
Outstanding Costumes for a Contemporary Series, Limited Series or Movie: “Empire” — “The Lyon’s Roar”
- Rita D. McGhee, Costume Designer
- Sukari McGill, Costume Supervisor