Denzel Washington Tells Daughter To Be Like Viola Davis

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By Asa Lovechild

At the Hollywood Reporter’s annual round table discussion, Denzel Washington talked about the advice that he gave his daughter Olivia. Olivia is studying to be an actress at the acclaimed New York University.

Washington said to his daughter,

“You’re black, you’re a woman, and you’re dark-skinned at that. So you have to be a triple/quadruple threat. You gotta learn how to act. You gotta learn how to dance, sing, move onstage. That’s the only place, in my humble opinion, you really learn how to act. Look at Viola Davis. That’s who you want to be. Forget about the little pretty girls; if you’re relying on that, when you hit 40, you’re out the door. You better have some chops.”

Many African American actresses of a darker hue have faced the same issues of being too dark for Hollywood. You have to be ten times better than your competition to even be recognized as a promising actress. In the 60’s, and before, it was difficult for African American women to get a leading role. Today, speaking as an African American woman, we add another element to it, which is that of being passed over, even for a role that is specifically meant for us to play.

A prime example is the role of Nina Simone. Although it may not have been Zoe Saldana’s doing, she definitely did not turn down a role that she clearly was not a good fit for. Instead of casting someone for the part that resembled Nina Simone, with Simone’s caliber of talent, they cast Saldana. Saldana can be seen on the set of the biopic with a prosthetic nose and make-up to darken her skin tone.

What message is this sending to our young girls and aspiring female actresses. But of course in Hollywood, it is all about who draws the crowd so that the money can be made. Denzel understands the reality that his daughter will have to face, as a woman of color in this industry. It will not be about looks for her. They will not see her for the beautiful dark skinned woman that she is. That is exactly why she has to rely on her talent alone.

Although some may beg to differ, Viola Davis is an excellent role-model for aspiring actresses of the like. But as excellent a role model that Viola Davis is, even she still has to fight harder and be better than her Caucasian counterparts. There may never be a solution to this repetitive dilemma but knowing what it takes to succeed , as a young African American actress, is half the battle.

Asa Lovechild is an accomplished actress and singer out of New York City.
Follow @asalovechild


  1. Bill

    November 15, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Mr. Denzel Washington is giving his daughter LIFE advice and professional advice. Be true to who you are. He never compromised, so why should she. She is beautiful Black woman just like her mother. Her roles will come just as in Ms. Davis case. Ms. Davis stands on her body of work, not on her laurels. She’s the consumate professional and worthy of an Oscar! Miss Washington, listen to your Dad, he’s been there done that. Patience is a virtue, let that also guide you in choosing your roles and scripts, God Bless,

  2. I4I

    November 16, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    We as people of multi hues of color must stop letting others define what is and was is not beautiful and talented, be for sure that they will always want to uphold thier fake fairy tale world where the fair skinned are pure and should be admired and the brown and dark skinned peresons are evil.

  3. Max-A-Million

    November 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    This is exactly why Mr. Washington is so Loved and RESPECTED in his profession! “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32 Applause to this man of Integrity!

  4. Uchenna Uzoukwu

    November 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Mr. Washington should instead of focucusing on what is, how about leading a movement as to what it should be. we should know by now that by feeding the beast you only make it stronger. If Hollywood does not change it too will fall. There are so many people that feel disinfranchised by the Hollywood parotic view of race and leading women and men. That’s why indie films have come up and other studios (ie TP studios) have been created. The entire world will soon reject hollywood if theses executives and studio heads don’t update their viewpoint of race, color and beauty. they will be a memory (MGM). Folks like Denzel should truely be part of that charge to change instead of feeding into the formula. It is good advice to encourage your child to be the best and to give 150% to everything you do. But it is tragic for someone of his caliber to himself not give 150% to do the best he can do to impact those ills which he professes are true.

    • Whatever

      January 14, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      This sounds good but we all know there is no movement in Hollywood maybe eventually when all is said and done it this can be change… Denzel gave this daughter a good example of an wonderful actress and I think the suggestion seemed fit.. Now what others can do is create their own Hollywood instead thinking about starting a movement within a organization that doesn’t appreciated all Hues do what Tyler Perry has done start your own and let the rest bit off you.. I wouldn’t put that responsibility on Denzel Washingston to start a movement…

  5. black jones

    November 17, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Mr.Uzoukwu, My siniments exactly—FEEDING THE BEAST—definetly makes it STRONGER!!!! WELL SAID.

  6. lol omg real

    November 17, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    That was wonderful on the real, especially since black females period have to watch out for each other and it is said we can’t Ms.Davis is a wonderful role model so 2 thumbs up Denzel.

  7. M. Rick Turner

    November 18, 2012 at 9:04 am

    please send me this article

  8. donna

    November 19, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I would think her mother,who is an actress, would be just as great a role model as Viola Davis. I do believe Davis is a super actress and I hope she will continue to shine.
    As for the Simone story, who is the director? Who offerred the part,were there auditions held? Do we fault Zoe? She makes her living being an actress. It’s a shame she has to be made up to resemble Simone, but she isn’t the first actress to be made up to resemble the character they are portaying. It’s the way of Hollywood.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  9. Frederick Dee

    November 19, 2012 at 11:25 am

    “Saldana can be seen on the set of the biopic with a prosthetic nose and make-up to darken her skin tone.” Sounds like “Blackface” to me.

  10. Wakeup

    November 20, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Things are getting better for minorities bit by bit, thank God. But since minorities usually don’t own the studios and make the decisions – black women are at the mercy of others’ opinions. Look at the opinions people have of black women on the internet.

    I have been disgusted by the negative portrayals of black women in particular in the media while other women are put on pedestals.

    But as I said progress is happening – so you could be the 1st black woman to do the next big thing!

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