Viola Davis Gives Powerful Speech After Winning #SeeHer Award at Critics’ Choice

Viola Davis

Actress Viola Davis grew emotional at the Critics’ Choice Awards on Sunday (11Dec16) as she delivered a powerful speech about the importance of self-acceptance.

The Help star was presented with the first ever #SeeHer prize, recognizing the actress as a role model for her work in helping to accurately portray women and girls in the media.

Amy Adams was on hand to introduce her Doubt co-star, hailing her as a true force in Hollywood, as Viola was given a standing ovation by the celebrity-filled crowd, which included guests like Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman, Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling, and Davis’ Fences co-star Denzel Washington.

Clearly moved by the warm welcome, Viola grew emotional as she used her time onstage to encourage others to embrace the skin they’re in – something she has only recently fully come to terms with herself.

“It’s hard to accept being a role model for women when you’re trying to lose weight,” she quipped as she opened her speech.

“I’ve always discovered the heart of my characters by asking: ‘Why?'” she explained. “When I was handed Annalise Keating (her role in TV drama How to Get Away with Murder), I said: ‘She’s sexy, she’s mysterious…'”

Viola revealed her first thought after landing the part of the high-powered defense attorney was the need to shed a few pounds, until she realized her figure wasn’t what was important for the role.

“I’m used to playing women that (I) have to gain 40 pounds (for) and wear an apron,” she continued. “So I said: ‘Oh, I’ve got to lose weight, I’ve got to learn how to walk like Kerry Washington in heels…’ And then I asked myself: ‘Well, why do I have to do all of that?’

“I truly believe that the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are and I just recently embraced that at 51.”

Viola was nominated for two other prizes during Sunday’s big show and took home Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film adaptation of Fences, although she lost out on Best Actress in a Drama Series for How to Get Away with Murder to Westworld‘s Evan Rachel Wood.