The night before the Golden Globes 2021, Viola Davis, who is nominated for her powerhouse performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, did not post pictures of herself getting awards show-ready. Instead of face masks and manicures (yes, actors still enlist full glam squads for Zoom), Davis posted the following message to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, of which not a single member of the 87-strong governing body is Black.
“The journey of a Black artist is littered with obstacles in creating, developing and being acknowledged for our work,” said Davis with the hashtag #TimesUpGlobes. “If we continue to keep silent, the younger generation of artists will have the exact same load to carry. No more excuses.”
Davis, who was the first female Black actor to receive an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony – the so-called “Triple Crown of Acting” – has long used her platform to speak out about the racial pay gap and the fact that she is not afforded the same opportunities as her white peers. The American star, who graduated from Julliard in 1993, also continues to share her spotlight with those who are struggling for visibility in an industry with deep-rooted prejudices. Her Golden Globes look, for example, might only be viewable via a small computer window, but it showcases the work of Claude Kameni, an emerging Cameroon-born, LA-based designer who is on a mission to popularise the prints of Africa.
“Viola wanted a designer who spoke to her specifically as a Black woman,” celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart, who has worked with Davis since 2009, tells British Vogue. “Her look is all about rethinking glamour and couture on the red carpet in the age of diversity and inclusivity. It’s still an arena that needs cultural specificity. Claude Kameni’s latest collection [from her brand Lavie by CK] was inspired by African royalty, and Viola is royalty to me!” The vibrant design – accented with Pomellato jewellery – is crafted from an ornate fabric from Kameni’s native Cameroon. Similarly striking motifs telling the story of the designer’s roots have won Lavie by CK favour with Tracee Ellis Ross, who wore the brand to last year’s virtual BET Awards.
“Viola is open to try anything, in particular strong prints, and usually ends up in bold simplicity, ideally with a comfortable shoe,” says Stewart of her client’s grounded attitude towards awards-season fashion. “Her style is summed up by her 2017 Oscars look, when she wore the bright red Armani gown with matching platform sneakers underneath.” Going online might offer relief from the rigmarole of being in “full glam”, but it will not stop Davis from being heard.