Viola Davis on Finding Her Beauty at 50
The actress and beauty campaign star shares the beauty products, secrets, and philosophies she leans on now.
You may already know that Viola Davis kills as Annalise Keating on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder (sometimes literally!), looks amazing with a natural afro, and is the star of L’Oreal’s latest Age Perfect campaign. A lesser known fact about the actress? She can’t stop collecting bottles of perfume (her latest acquisition, FYI, is Byredo’s La Tulipe) — or, well, beauty products in general, a passion she shared with us for our February issue’s Beauty Talk pages. Keep reading for her thoughts on rediscovering makeup in her fifties, whom she calls for beauty advice, and why having natural hair is actually “like being in an AA group.”
You’re the new face of L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect, which is for women over 50. When much of the beauty industry is focused on youth, how does it feel to be acknowledged by a major label?
It’s like someone finally sees me. Many women get to a certain point in their lives and no one looks at them or values them anymore — as if they are invisible, you know? The fact is that beauty is not something that can just be defined by youth.
Do you find your morning routine has gotten more or less complicated with age?
I’m completely into everything from undereye moisturizer to all shades of lipstick, which is surprising because I never used any products in my twenties. Now I have about 30 bottles of perfume alone; each one is for a different occasion. I feel more girlish and buoyant in my fifties than I ever have before. I’ve released my inner woman!
This is our Badass issue. What’s your most badass beauty moment?
When I wore a big Afro at the 2018 Golden Globes with my black [Brandon Maxwell] dress. I felt awesome. It was a throwback to all the characters I loved when I was younger, like Christie Love, played by Teresa Graves, who was my first hero. I felt like me, but my fantasy of me.
Over the past several years natural hair has become a signature for you. Why did you decide to make the switch?
I’m at a period where I want to step into who I am. I’ve spent too long not feeling pretty or feminine enough — not feeling enough. And part of that was about my hair! Like any fear in life, I had to deal with it. So when I was nominated for The Help in 2012, I walked down the Oscars red carpet, one of the most public events known to mankind, with my natural hair. It’s been great, though I do have my moments. I always say that when Black women who have gone natural get together, it’s like being in an AA group. The conversations are like, “How long have you been natural?” “Oh, two months today. I have good days and bad days. But mostly good days. Sometimes I put a wig on; sometimes I take it off...”
Who do you call when you’re having a hair or makeup crisis?
My friend [actress] Elisa Perry. She always knows the answer. She and my husband, Julius Tennon — and my opinionated 9-year-old daughter, Genesis — tell the truth in a helpful way. They say things like, “That doesn’t work because of how the light hits.” It’s often said that when you achieve a certain level of fame, you’ll be surrounded by “yes” people. But then sometimes people will also be mean to you and justify it by that statement. The key is to have confidantes who love you and are lovingly honest.
Speaking of Genesis, what’s the most important beauty advice you hope to pass on to her?
That’s easy. I tell her that she is starting with the most beautiful palette imaginable — herself. To never cover or erase who she is. I want her to know that she is enough.
L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Luminous Hydrating Lipstick in Flaming Carmin
Hermès Twilly d’Hermès Eau Poivrée eau de parfum
SheaMoisture Green Coconut & Activated Charcoal Purifying & Hydrating In-Shower Styler
Byredo La Tulipe eau de parfum
For more stories like this, pick up the February issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Jan. 17.