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Fans Outraged at New York Times for Calling Viola Davis 'Less Classically Beautiful'

Fans Outraged at New York Times for Calling Viola Davis 'Less Classically Beautiful'

Twitter exploded this morning when an article surrounding Viola Davis and her new role in How to Get Away with Murder was published on the New York Times website and included some very poorly worded phrases.

“Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry” the article stated, which caused fans to explode after saying that darker-skinned women are “less classically beautiful.”

Viola is a gorgeous and incredibly talented actress known for her work in Doubt, The Help, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby series, and many more.

HAVE YOU READ the New York Times article? What do you think??

Click inside to read what some fans had to say about the article…

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Photos: Getty
Posted to: Viola Davis

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  • ReadClosely

    She isn’t classically beautiful. Look at Dorothy Dandridge! There is nothing wrong with this article! It is the OPPOSITE of RACIST. It condemns society for only allowing young light skinned black women to be the only black women deemed beautiful and celebrates Rhimes for breaking, as the article calls it, a “narrow” viewpoint. Judging by the poor wording of most tweets, they didn’t understand the article.

  • Anabelle

    Smh; she IS classically beautiful

  • get over it

    Everyone is hyper sensitive these days. get over it.

  • Tiff

    ReadClosely: How can you respond by saying Dorothy Dandridge is classically beautifuL? THAT is the point. Dorothy Dandridge looks very light and almost biracial so she was always considered classically beautiful. For many, Viola is classically beautiful but the question is to whom? To our Westernized ideal she is not but to many others she is. If she were in the Congo somewhere, she’d be considered “classically” beautiful because the standards are different. I find it laughable that Shonda Rhymes, a very rich woman who created so many top shows is still seen as a woman with a “chip on her shoulder” or “angry”. Black women can’t get a break. There is nothing angry about Shonda, Olivia Pope or Viola. It is offensive to paint them that way. I am white and I see that. Why can’t the NY Times?

  • Tina

    She isn’t “classically” beautiful. And she is darker skinned. And it was meant as a good thing, not a criticism. In other words…most of the time Black women are chosen based on lighter skin and more classical ideas of beauty. This is a departure in a good way! She’s also older! So…Shonda Rimes is going after ageism, racism and the idea that we all have to look like a model. I don’t see this as negative!

  • Walking By

    I think Viola is classically beautiful. She shines in a way that Megan Fox a Barbie Doll but empty and vacant can never.

  • matty Mac

    This news item, and many of the outraged people, are making things up.

    The article never said that she is less classically beautiful BECAUSE she is darker skinner. Read it again.

    It says she is darker skinned AND less classically beautiful. The two are separated. The ‘beauty’ part has nothing to do with her skin color.

    I think Viola is a gorgeous, strong woman. And talented too. But I’m sorry – the article is on point. Today’s western standards of beauty will consider Halle Berry and Kerry Washington more ‘traditionally’ beautiful any day of the week….not really because of skin color, but because of their features and body and age, the overall way they look.

    We can get outraged all we want and be PC, but you are all culturally conditioned to admire and want those standards of beauty, and it’s how society perceives things…even if it’s not necessarily healthy.

  • keller

    I’m amazed that someone intelligent enough to land a gig with the NYT doesn’t see the blatant stupidity of bashing the “narrow beauty standards” for african american women, and then in the same breath, attempting to narrow those standards even further by using her darker skin and age to categorize this stunning woman as less classically beautiful. This person is an actual moron.

  • Taylor

    Pardon, but in the black race, Keri Washington, Beyonce, Haley Berry and even Angela Basset are considered various degrees of “brown skinned”. Lolo Jones and Lena Horne are considered light skinned . The gorgeous Viola Davis is considered dark skinned.

    Some people in the older generation are VERY nervous at how the perception of beauty is changing, that is why they right such biased articles……trying to influence mindsets that are colored by their own prejudices, but times they are a changing! You go Viola!
    By the way she will look this way when she is 75 because of the amount of melatonin in her beautiful skin.

  • a

    people get outraged over the little things- and then the things they should be getting outraged over they don’t.

  • gem

    She seems to be a good actress.

  • amensister

    “Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to,” – what hell does that mean??

  • bcd

    @ a: Easy for you to say. From your comment, I guess you probably are not a victim of such subtle attacks. Shonda has every right to call them out as do black women. Why don’t these writers leave black women alone? Why always attacking them? It is so sexist too. If a writer is sharing their thoughts on a public forum then they should certainly expect public responses to their thoughts. Also, I think there are many people who are outraged by issues such as education inequality, healthcare, economy etc. The portrayal of women in the media is no less of an issue either. Don’t be passive in life.

  • Putain

    The article doesn’t say darker-skinned women are “less classically beautiful.” It says how Viola got casted by Shonda Rhimes despite not falling under stereotype of how a beautiful black woman should look (a.k.a, lighter skinned, i think that’s why the author mentions Halle and Kerry, because they are), which means Viola was chosen because of her talent, not her looks. Which is a good thing, imo.
    The thing is people are not reading properly and just look for any excuse to bring up racism, which no doubt is an important issue, looking for it even when it’s not present just perpetuates the matter.


    @keller: I knew without even clicking on the link that the writer was Alessandra Stanley, who’s incompetent, and has been for a very long time.

  • Degelas

    Putain: WRONG! FAIL! This article’s first sentence is about race. It starts off by saying if Shonda writes an autobiography, it should be called “How to get away with being an angry black woman”. THAT IS ABOUT RACE. Did you not read the article or are you still struggling with 3rd grade reading classes? I am white myself and I saw the blatant weird racial nonsense in the article. Come one. Stop it. Just stop it. Now you are blaming the people who read the article as condescending as being the ones with the issue. How about the writer herself? If you don’t want to hear people’s opinions then don’t write for the NY Times. Write at home in your personal diary.

  • tick

    The proper term is “conventionally beautiful.”

  • Mai

    Tell me about it. People are crazy these days. I guess no more opinions. No more anything because any word can mean something else to another person. This world…

  • Ari

    Viola is gorgeous and ridiculously talented. Halle is gorgeous, that’s about it.

  • MimiB

    Possibly the articles was just badly written and no insult was actually intended, but I read the original in the Times and gasped at what the writer said and how she worded her comments. She was giving what’s known as a backhanded complement, ie, actually insulting someone under the guise of supposedly praising.

    What I read was an article writer engaging in ageism, racism and holding a black woman up to white beauty standards. Just who decides whether a woman is “classically” beautiful anyway? Must one be a white writer? White society? And just how does one identify “classic” ? Unfortunately, the only black women mainstream America, at least as reflected by this writer, seems to find attractive are very light skinned “mulattos” with caucasian-like features. I guess that’s what the writer teams to be classic… oh yes, you have to be young too. No one with dark skin, or anyone over 40 apparently qualifies.

    For the record, I’m white.

  • MimiB

    I suggest reading this piece at Vulture which dissects the problems with this NY Times article far, far better than this Just Jared piece.

  • angry black woman

    Oh please, let’s be real. She is not attractive at all! She has a deep voice like a man, a hard body, and a masculine walk. She is too aggressive in her interviews. I don’t find her all that talented. Plus, why don’t you think she isn’t given romantic roles….be real. She isn’t classically beautiful or attractive. I find her annoying. Let’s stop getting offended over every little thing. But I guess that’s the beauty of the internet….it’s a reality check from the virtual world.

  • allison

    If everyone is truthful with themselves they would agree with the NYT writer. She is NOT classically beautiful. She is an amazing actress. But not someone you would put in the top ten most beautiful dark skin females.
    Lupita Nyong’o is classically beautiful.

  • fundamental reading skills

    allison: the point of the article doesn’t clarify specifically that is what they were saying. in fact it seems to suggest darak skin is aligned with not beautiful. also, it begs the question, how did you come to define classically beautiful? where do we learn this standard? does it apply in ever corner of the world? is megan fox beautiful to a tribesman in a remote village in africa or in the amazon? we are spefically referred to european influenced standards of beauty no? more problematic than this is the article dismissing shonda rhimes as angry. ridiculous. shonda could run circles around this writer in terms of success yet she sees shonda as the one who is angry? i’d be angry if my job was to write bad articles for the new york times. i’d be ecstatic if my job was to create top-rated abc shows for a living.

  • Diedre

    WTF is wrong with the NYT?! Their thinly veiled racist jabs at both Shonda Rhimes and Viola Davis are really sh!tty.
    Sounds like they need to clean house over there and get rid of these POS.

  • Uhhhh

    Where is her other fake eyelash??? She is a pretty black woman. I like her!

  • Maria

    Free publicity for the upcoming show. Win-win situation.

  • Kiki

    @Putain: I don’t think it isn’t racist at all either. I think people are blowing it out of proportion. Although I think also that the article is wrong though but being racist is not one of them. I am a brown skin black woman but it pains my my heart that to put down a dark skinned black woman like that because like viola Davis feel her pain as well because I am black as well. But I think Shondra Rhimes should be writing campy romance novels rather than writing a television series cause let’ face it, she cannot write at all period.

  • Theresa

    Did anyone actually read the article? The WHOLE point was that this show, How To Get Away With Murder, was the next AMAZING level for Shonda Rhimes, who has been breaking barriers for black female actors since Miranda Bailey, MD on Grey’s Anatomy. The article praises Rhimes’s work in allowing black female characters to be the lead, to be fearless, to be strong, and to do it in a way that, and I quote, ““Mad Men” did when it began on AMC in 2007, including inspiring copycat fashion.”

    Just because an article is honest in tone, does not make it racist. The characterization of “darker skinned,” and “less classically beautiful” are actually two separate things. If the writers of JustJared could read, perhaps they would have clarified that. And, let’s be straight, Kerry Washington is more classically beautiful than Viola Davis. And it has nothing to do with Western ideals. The essence of pointing this out in the article, was obviously to highlight Rhimes’s desire to see beyond the predictability of Hollywood, and choose an actress who could kick butt, whether or not she looked like Beyonce.

    And FYI, not only am I black, I am African.

    Finally, THE ARTICLE IS ABOUT SHONDA RHIMES. I am willing to bet good money that 89.7% of you people spoiling for a fight didn’t actually read the whole thing. The reading comprehension of this country is astounding.

  • decarr


    Actually, judging by the poor wording of this “journalists” article, SHE didnt understand the subject matter she chose to take on. If a journalists off-colour commentary and attempt at reverse stereo-typing usage are not clearly understood within the context of the article written, then THAT is a failing of the journalist. A poorly executed, published article, that is not well received by the public, is not the fault of the public… it is the fault of the journalist.

    “Classically Beautiful” by what standard???… white america?
    “Classically Beautiful” in terms of what type of look?… light skinned, pointier nosed, thinner lipped blacks?

    The term “classically beautiful” in itself is a classist, slave mentality term that white people attempt to hold black people to.
    So really… its not black people who should get over themselves on this one.

  • LaTerice

    The whole damn article is RACIST! Read the whole thing yourself. It basically say black women should only play nice/good characters. That it’s horrible that black women in lead roles misbehave . What about House of Cards or Justified or Mad Men or Breaking Bad, any show starring a white man? Where is the article about all the angry white men and the white men that produce these shows? Why can’t black women play these flawed people too?Theres not enough wise non-threatening maid roles to go around so what, Viola should just quit acting? This writer is the worst kind of racist, the kind that don’t even know that they are.

  • Sky Jones

    @matty Mac: @matty Mac: Matty Mac….I know this is late and you probably will never see this but I disagree. I haven’t read the full article yet, but I will. In my experiences when “They” compare African American actresses/singers/entertainers and “they” are defining beauty a lot of it is based on skin tone. And in this case I believe they are referring to her skin color. Kerri Washington and Viola Davis have similar features…..eyes, nose, and full lips. The only thing separating Halle/Kerry from Viola is skin color. Due to residual from slavery in this country if you’re not lighter skinned as an African American woman, to many, you aren’t seen as beautiful. Every R&B or rap song I hear on the radio (right before I turn) is glorifying lighter skinned women. In her latest song, The Flawless remix with Nikki Minaj, even Queen Bey brags that she is “redbone”. If lighter skinned wasn’t considered the epitome of beauty to some, in a song where she claims she is “flawless” and “woke up like this”, she wouldn’t be bragging about her light skin.