Viola Davis is obsessed with taking baths. She’s so obsessed, in fact, that the L’Oréal Paris spokeswoman applies her entire nighttime skin care routine while soaking. She tells me this casually while on the phone just two weeks before the 2021 Oscars, where she’s up for Best Actress for her role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Though she’s one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, Davis doesn’t hold back when it comes to spilling her beauty secrets and sharing some of her wisdom. Perhaps that’s why she’s the face of a major milestone for L’Oréal Paris: the 30th anniversary of the iconic Voluminous Original Mascara.
Ahead of the Academy Awards and her next role, Michelle Obama in Showtime’s The First Lady, we catch up with Davis to chat all things skincare, baths, and beauty.
Who is your biggest beauty inspiration?
My first beauty inspiration was my mom, only because she had the best legs in Central Falls, Rhode Island. And she had the best wigs! She could rock a wig, or she could take it off, which she did a lot. She would whip it off, especially when she was mad at us. But she also wore short hair, she had high cheekbones, and a long neck. Just absolutely beautiful. So she was the first—and people in Central Falls would always say, “Viola, your mom is so beautiful.” And it would just, it would make me so proud. She was a minimalist, but yet she knew how to rock the heels and the miniskirts and still look like her. I didn’t feel like she was trying to look like anyone else. She didn’t have the fashion magazines. It was just her style, her way.
Did you want to emulate her beauty in your own life?
Yes, especially my 20s. I used to wear the platform shoes and miniskirts, because I wanted to show my legs, which were a little bit more muscular than my mom’s. I never quite felt like I achieved it, but she definitely was the prototype.
Over time, I think our perceptions of beauty can change. What is something you once thought was true about beauty that you’ve since changed your mind about?
Oh, boy, a lot of it. I always thought beauty was in youth. But that’s not necessarily the case. I think I was a little different that way. But still, I had a little bit of a perception that beauty was youth. As soon as you started seeing the skin sag and the wrinkles, then you couldn’t see the beauty quite as well. I also always thought beauty was hair, lots of hair. And I also thought beauty was something external, that all of beauty was external. It wasn’t until I got much older that I realized that it was a full package. It’s like the old saying, “Beauty is as beauty does.” The person’s heart, character, and confidence, and understanding their value is what radiates beauty. I would hear people say it, but I never quite believed it until I got older.
Was your new attitude and perception of beauty a gradual change that came with time, or was there one moment when you realized it changed?
It came with time, sort of feeling the nicks and scrapes of life and getting to know myself. Understanding that at some point, it’s not conceited and it’s not egotistical to love oneself. I have a daughter who is very beautiful and very tall, and I am always telling her how beautiful she is. The other day she said, “You know, you’re beautiful too, Mommy.” So I feel like through affirming her, it’s also affirming myself. So that has played a huge role in me understanding beauty, is coming to terms with my own beauty.
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