Viola Davis was honored at Sunday's Critics' Choice Awards with the show's first-ever #SeeHer Award, and the talented star delivered a powerful speech that showed exactly why she was presented with the inaugural honor in the first place.
The Emmy-winning actress got emotional while accepting the award, and she candidly opened up about how she's learned to love and accept herself in defiance of many Hollywood expectations.
"I've always discovered the heart of my characters, I guess, by asking 'Why?'" Davis shared. "When I was handed Annalise Keating [in How to Get Away With Murder], I said, 'She's sexy, she's mysterious.'"
"I'm used to playing women where I've got to gain 40 pounds and wear an apron," she continued. "So I said, 'Oh God, I've got to lose weight. I've got to learn how to walk like Kerry Washington in heels. I gotta lose my belly.' And then I asked myself, 'Well, why do I have to do all of that?'"
"I truly believe that the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, and I just recently embraced that at 51," Davis added. "I think my strongest power is that at 10 o'clock every Thursday night, I want you to come into my world. I am not going to come into yours. You come into my world and you sit with me, my size, my hue, my age, and you sit and you experience. And I think that's the only power I have as an artist, so I thank you for this award."
Later in the evening, Davis took home another trophy for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Fences, based on the acclaimed August Wilson play, in which she stars opposite Denzel Washington.
Davis had nothing but praise for her celebrated co-star, who also directed the adaptation, and shared her gratitude with him in her tearful and heartfelt acceptance speech, calling Washington "the leader and the captain" of their powerful film.
"[He] said the two scariest words that an actor can ever hear, which was 'Trust me,'" Washington recalled. "Usually that’s because you can't trust a lot of people with a performance, in this business. But we trusted you and you delivered as a leader. You made us proud and most importantly, you made August proud."