Viola Davis Inspires Hollywood’s Women to Keep Pushing Forward: ‘This Is a Year of Owning Who We Are’

Alongside Emma Stone and Billie Jean King at Women In Film's annual pre-Oscar cocktail party, the trio reflected on a momentous year, and what's to come.
Viola Davis and Emma Stone Inspire at Women in Film Pre-Oscar Party
Viola Davis

When last year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Viola Davis hit the stage at the 11th annual Women In Film Pre-Oscar Cocktail party, she used her time to acknowledge the difficulty of the past #MeToo/Time’s Up year on many women in the industry. Some attendees might have gotten used to “feeling like maybe we have a little extra weight on us,” she said, “feeling like, especially in this past year, that we have testimonies of sexual assault, feeling less than, of always at the caboose,” an observation she bookended with inspiration.

“We’re still worth it. With all of our imperfections. With all of our complexities and confusion. We’re worth it,” she said.

Officially hosted by both WIF President Cathy Schulman and Oscar-winner Emma Stone, on Friday night, Women In Film celebrated some of the year’s most lauded women nominees, including Best Actress contender Margot Robbie, “Lady Bird” filmmaker and Best Director nominee Greta Gerwig, Bes Cinematography nominee Rachel Morrison, double nominee Mary J. Blige, Best Documentary contender (and living legend) Agnes Varda, and Best Original Screenplay nominee Emily V. Gordon (plus husband and co-nominee) Kumail Nanjiani.

Cathy Schulman, Billie Jean King and Emma StoneWomen in Film Pre-Oscar Cocktail Party, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 02 Mar 2018
Cathy Schulman, Billie Jean King, and Emma StoneDavid Buchan/REX/Shutterstock

And Davis, like many in the room, was looking to the future. “This is a year of owning who we are,” Davis said. “You either own your story and you share it or you stand outside of it, always hustling for your worth. I am a proponent of, the moment you came out of your mother’s womb, you were worthy, and that’s what we’re learning this year.”

It was a message for everyone. Davis continued: “Even the women who are still in silence, the women who stepped up and spoke up, all of the women nominees, all of the women who should have been, could have been nominees, we’re all worth it. That’s we need to come into the room with. That’s what we need to go into 2018, 2019 with. The privilege of a lifetime is being exactly who you are.”

She was a tough act to follow, and leave it to last year’s Best Actress winner to acknowledge exactly that. “No should ever have to follow Viola Davis, ever,” Stone joked. “And that was off the cuff!”

Traditionally, it’s the previous Best Actress winner who holds the floor the longest at WIF’s annual event, but Stone was eager to cede her time to another inspiring woman. “I’m so inspired by the voices I’ve gotten to listen to and the things I’ve learned in the past couple of months, much less over the past year, what’s been happening in our world and in our industry,” Stone said, before introducing tennis legend Billie Jean King, who Stone portrayed in last year’s “Battle of the Sexes.”

“Women are taught to be perfect, and boys and men are taught to be brave,” King said to the crowd. “So, women, stop apologizing, stop apologizing. No one’s perfect and no one’s brave all the time. Men, you don’t have to be brave all the time. You can let it out, cry, do whatever you want. It doesn’t matter! It’s really important that we do that.”

But her greatest message was one that was for everyone assembled, a rallying cry for a new age. “Everyone’s an influencer, and everyone can lead, so let’s stop apologizing, let’s go for it,” King said. “Let’s go!”

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