For six seasons between 2014 and 2020, Shonda Rhymes had television audiences on lock every Thursday, partially due to the thrilling drama series “How To Get Away With Murder.” Starring the iconic Viola Davis, the hour-long show chronicled the complicated daily life, career, and antics of its main character, Annalise Keating.

Although Viola Davis gave viewers a captivating weekly performance, her time on the ABC series was not the first nor last time she would have audiences in a proverbial chokehold, enamored by her acting chops.

According to an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Viola Davis was born on a former plantation in Saint Matthews, SC, and raised in poverty. She faced continued racism after moving to Rhode Island. However, her humble beginnings didn’t stop her from discovering her love of acting and using that as a tool for her success.

“I had a passion for acting because it was therapeutic. Art heals the mind. Art is supposed to move you, shake you, make you feel less alone,” Viola Davis stated, per Harvard Business Review.

While her 2008 breakout role in “Doubt” earned the 58-year-old an Oscar nomination, she would go on to lead in other roles that would grasp the attention of critics and fans alike. Viola Davis’ resume includes masterful performances in works like “The Help,” Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and “The Woman King.”

With such performances under her belt, it is no surprise that Viola Davis is among the few who have reached EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards) status, becoming the third Black woman to earn the achievement.

According to an NPR report, Viola Davis earned her Grammy for recording her memoir “Finding Me.” Before that award in 2023, she earned an Emmy for “How to Get Away With Murder” (2015), an Oscar for “Fences” (2017), and the Tony award for both “King Hedley II” (2001) and “Fences” (2010).

Through decades of hard work and perseverance, Viola Davis has accumulated an estimated $25 million net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Although this is noteworthy, the actress and producer has experienced the challenges of equal pay for herself and other Black women in the industry.

“We won’t talk about gender inequality of pay,” Davis told host Tina Brown in a Women In The World conversation. “Because a lot of the women who have stepped forward, and I stand in solidarity with them, okay, what they are getting paid, which is half of what a man is getting paid, well, we [women of color] get probably a tenth of what a Caucasian woman gets. And I am number one on the call sheet. Then, I have to go in and hustle for my worth. That’s what I feel like I’m doing.”

With as many accolades as Viola Davis has achieved and a 30-plus career portfolio, she understands the importance of standing with women who have yet to receive the earnings they deserve.

Viola Davis has been at the forefront of pay equity advocacy, particularly for Black actresses. With phrases like “She [Viola Davis] is the Black Meryl Streep,” Viola Davis makes it a point to note that what is supposed to be a compliment usually comes at the expense of highlighting the pay gap between Black and white entertainers.

“There should be solidarity with everyone. Solidarity with Caucasian women and women of color. [Actress] Michelle Williams, of course, put it beautifully. The differences in pay and the lack of access to opportunities are huge,” Davis said to InStyle Magazine. “I fully expect changes. I’m trying to lift my hopes up. Even if it takes a little bit of vodka. If we don’t move forward together, then we don’t move forward.”

Inequity in Hollywood is part of the reason Davis, along with her husband Julius Tennon, launched JuVee Productions, a production company aimed at changing the landscape for people of color.

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“We are trying to change the landscape for people who have been marginalized in the business for so long,” Viola Davis explained to the outlet. “That could be our legacy. I came from the theater and felt like, ‘Oh, do I just have highbrow taste?’ Because I would read scripts and think, ‘This is not good.’ So this is my way of working with emerging artists and writers who write complicated roles for ladies, for people of color, for Asians, for Hispanics.”

In addition to her production company, Viola Davis launched ShoulderUp in 2019 with co-founder Phyllis Newhouse. Based on a profile from Inc., the company aims to create a networking ecosystem supporting other women. The organization also has an investment arm providing financial backing to women-led and owned media, tech, and sports entertainment businesses.

If having a successful acting career and running two companies wasn’t enough, The Hollywood Reporter exclusively revealed that Viola Davis inked a deal with Audible for Ashé Audio Ventures, a podcast label set to release its first projects in 2024.