Viola Davis’ Oscar win last week was not the only major award the actress was presented with. On Saturday, the 51-year-old was awarded Harvard University’s Artist of the Year award. The honor came just days after Rihanna received their Humanitarian Award.
“It’s a very sacred place, the stage and the screen,” she said about her role as an actor to the students and staff. “At the end of the day, what I do as an artist is channel characters and their stories and those moments in their lives that we sometimes hide.”
Past recipients of Harvard’s Artist of the Year award include LL Cool J, Quincy Jones, Queen Latifah, Sharon Stone, Andy Garcia, Will Smith, Halle Berry, and Salma Hayek.
Davis who had a stellar performance in August Wilson’s Fences and is currently on Shonda Rhime’s How to Get Away with Murder, has had a hard road to the top.
“I would jump in trash bins with maggots looking for food, and I would steal from the corner store because I was hungry,” she told People about a photo of herself she shared on Instagram. “I never had any kids come to my house because my house was a condemned building, it was boarded up, it was infested with rats. I was one of those kids who were poor and knew it.”
Adding, “The only picture I have of my childhood is the picture of me in kindergarten. I have this expression on my face—it’s not a smile, it’s not a frown. I swear to you, that’s the girl who wakes up in the morning and who looks around her house and her life saying, ‘I cannot believe how God has blessed me.’”