Viola Davis Opens Up About Childhood Difficulties: A Lot Of Times We Didn’t Have Any Soap, We Didn’t Have Any Clean Clothes
Viola Davis isn’t holding anything back as she gears up to publish her new memoir entitled “Finding Me.”
Academy-award-winning actress Viola Davis, 56, is set to release her memoir on April 26, 2022. One of the aspects of her life that she touches on in the book is what it was like to grow up in poverty in Rhode Island and the school teacher who made her feel seen. During “Oprah + Viola: A Netflix Special Event,” Viola Davis discussed the hardships she faced in her childhood due to her family’s shortage of supplies. Davis‘ childhood home didn’t have utilities like gas or electricity. In addition to that, there was also a rat issue the family had to deal with.
In the special, Davis’ shared how her hygiene was negatively affected as a result of her living conditions. She recalled an incident at her school where she and her sister were called to the school office due to their “smell.” She said,
“I think that people just automatically assume you just clean yourself. Well, not if anyone doesn’t show you. A lot of times we didn’t have any soap. A lot of times we didn’t even have any clean clothes.”
She then proceeded to explain that her family had to hand-wash their clothing, meaning they either had to hang them outside — where icicles might build on them due to the cold — or inside, where they might not always fully dry. She continued,
“The next day if they’re not dry, they’re wet, but then if you’re not clean, you’re putting on wet clothes. People don’t realize that if no one shows you, you have to figure it out on your own, and I didn’t have the tools to figure it out on my own. Then I was ashamed that I didn’t have the tools to figure it out on my own. All I had, all I could do, was swim in the shame.”
Thankfully, when Davis was shamed by others due to her family’s scarcity of resources, she had a teacher that stepped up and helped her feel seen. According to Davis, one day while out with her family her school teacher spotted them and approached her mother about why her daughter hadn’t been seen at school. Her mother explained the status of their struggle — including frozen pipes and hunger.
Davis continued and revealed that the schoolteacher showed “compassion” and “empathy,” calling her to the office but this time, to give her a “bag full of the most beautiful clothes that were hand-me-downs from her daughter.” She added,
“When you are in the face of compassion and empathy, it’s amazing how it kills shame. Because you’re seen, and you’re seen for something way more valuable than your circumstances.”
In her memoir “Finding Me,” readers can also expect to learn about other elements of her childhood issues including her abusive alcoholic father as well as sexual abuse in her home. During her interview, Davis also briefly spoke on what it was like to set boundaries as a little black girl. She shared,
“You know, it’s just not that dirty old man on the street who wanted to give you a quarter, but then wanted a kiss. No one knows what boundaries are with little girls, especially back in the day. So if a guy said, ‘Give me a kiss,’ someone said, ‘Oh, give him a kiss. It’s not a big deal.’ Or someone leaves you with a male babysitter because that male babysitter is a friend of the family, and then your parents go out, and they leave you alone.”
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