Viola Davis Makes “Classic Beauty” Jab to New York Times Article During Her People’s Choice Awards Speech

Viola Davis
Viola Davis accepts the Favorite Actress In A New TV Series award onstage at the People's Choice Awards on Jan. 7. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Sneaky shade! At the 2015 People’s Choice Awards on Wednesday, Jan. 7, Viola Davis snagged the award for Favorite Actress in a New TV Series for her role as Annalise Keating on ABC’s breakout smash How to Get Away With Murder. After thanking her fans, the two-time Oscar nominee took a moment to throw in a subtle jab. 

“Thank you Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, and Peter Nowalk for thinking of a leading lady who looks like my classic beauty,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “I’m so happy that people have accepted me in this role at this stage in my career.”

Her comment about “classic beauty” stems from the September New York Times article penned by TV critic Alessandra Stanley, in which Stanley called Davis, 49, “less classically beautiful than [Kerry] Washington.” The piece sparked major controversy, thanks especially due to the line “when Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.’” 

Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder
Viola Davis as Annalise in How to Get Away with Murder Mitch Haaseth/ABC

The famed producer and Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy creator responded to the comments in interviews and on social media, and Davis, too, has spoken out. 

In September, she addressed the incident on The View, saying, “Being a dark-skinned black woman, you heard it from the womb. And ‘classically not beautiful’ is a fancy term for saying ugly and denouncing you and erasing you.”

Clad in a bold, hot pink Escada gown, Davis was the definition of beauty at last night’s awards show. Tweeting a picture with her trophy (get it?), she wrote, “Thank you all for the love. This means so much to me! #PeoplesChoiceAwards #HTGAWM.”

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