Viola Davis Responds To NY Times Calling Her 'Less Classically Beautiful'

News & Views | Bené Viera | 09/26/2014 | 03:00 PM EDT

'How To Get Away With Murder' actress says beauty is subjective and only 'you define you'

With class, grace and eloquence, Viola Davis has responded to being called “less classically beautiful” by the New York Times.

The actress sat down with Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie Perez on “The View” to discuss her new show “How To Get Away With Murder” produced by Shonda Rhimes. Her visit was only days after the racially offensive NYT article that called Rhimes an “angry black woman” and declared Davis as “less classically beautiful” than actresses like Kerry Washington and Halle Berry.

Davis had some powerful words on “The View” as she addressed the controversy for the first time.

"I’m glad that Shonda Rhimes saw me and she took me in when I interviewed with Oprah and said, ‘No one’s ever going to cast me in a sexy role.’ And Shonda looked at that interview and said, 'Well why not?' And I’m glad she said, 'Why not?' It think that’s what makes her a visionary, that’s what makes her special. That’s why she’s iconic.

I think that beauty is subjective. I’ve heard that statement [less classically beautiful] my entire life. Being a dark-skinned black woman, you hear it from the time you come out of the womb. And 'classically not beautiful' is a fancy term of saying ugly. And denouncing you, erasing you. Now it worked when I was younger. It no longer works for me now. It’s like Ruby Dee said, that she wanted that beauty, that hard to get beauty. Beauty that comes from within. Strength, courage and dignity…[Black women] are teaching a culture how to treat them and how to see them. Because really, at the end of the day, you define you."

And that is why Davis will always be classically beautiful.

Following the backlash of the article, NYT public editor Margaret Sullivan said the original piece was “astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch.” She added, “The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story. Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way.”

As for the writer in question, she blamed readers for misunderstanding her intent.

Both Rhimes and Davis delivered classy and smart responses. And as far as success being the best revenge, well, “How To Get Away With Murder” debuted with 14 million viewers.

(Photo: ABC)

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