Viola Davis attends the Disney/ABC Television Group 2014 Summer TCA in Beverly Hills, California.

Image: Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP/Associated Press
By Brian Anthony Hernandez2014-09-28 16:43:55 UTC

How would you react if The New York Times described you as “less classically beautiful” than your peers, let alone in the same story labeling your friend as an “angry black woman“?

If you’re Oscar-nominated Viola Davis, the star of ABC’s new How to Get Away With Murder, you reply eloquently on national TV. That’s what she did on The View.

“I think that beauty is subjective,” she said. “I’ve heard that statement my entire life. Being a dark-skinned black woman — you hear it from the time you get out of the womb. 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. … Because really at the end of the day, you define you.”

Davis admitted that the characters she portrays are often “downtrodden” and “asexual,” but in How to Get Away With Murder, the actress plays a stunning lawyer and professor.

“As Annalise, Ms. Davis, 49, is sexual and even sexy, in a slightly menacing way, but the actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama,” TV critic Alessandra Stanley wrote in the Times. “Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. [Shonda] Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. [Kerry] Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry, who played an astronaut on the summer mini-series Extant.”

The article angered many readers and fans of Shona Rhimes, creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, after Stanley characterized Rhimes as an “angry black woman.” Twitter users responded in droves, just as they did to Davis’ description.

Many used the hashtags #LessClassicallyBeautiful and #NotClassicallyBeautiful to express how they felt about Stanley’s description in the Times:

Black women are beautiful. Hate from all sides, but we don’t break. Big lips, big hair, high cheekbones we slay. #lessclassicallybeautiful

— Beauty in Color. (@PoCBeauty) September 19, 2014

BW are #lessclassicallybeautiful but the more “classical” type tan, undergo surgery to mimic our shapes and now rock our hairstyles.

— justified agitator (@Awkward_Duck) September 19, 2014

Statements like #LessClassicallyBeautiful as it applies to dark skinned women are racist and do nothing but damage to women & girls of color

— Atima Omara (@atima_omara) September 19, 2014

@violadavis & @shondarhimes Thank you for showing Our Beauty to my daughters #notclassicallybeautiful #Purplelessons

— Naomi Lucas (@MsPurpleLucas) September 25, 2014

Dear @nytimes, You need more black people. #LessClassicallyBeautiful

— Joan Morgan (@milfinainteasy) September 25, 2014

BONUS: 21 Powerhouse Ladies Who Ruled TV in the ’90s

  1. Tumblr_lvt1476eid1r79nqko1_500
  2. Tumblr_n5bk2ymtpp1rvzbdgo1_250
  3. Lisa
  4. Jessie
  5. Daria
  6. Buffy
  7. Tumblr_midz83bmbb1re82s3o2_250
  8. Xena
  9. Lillith
  10. Pepperann
  11. Jill
  12. Amanda
  13. Scully
  14. Kerryweaver
  15. Benson
  16. Reggie
  17. Powerpuff
  18. Clarissa
  19. Alexmack
  20. Sandy
  21. Judy

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