Viola Davis has been receiving a lot of recognition in 2017, and the accolades just keep on coming. Despite now being a household name, Davis' path to success has been far from ordinary, and the How To Get Away With Murder star is quick to highlight the challenges she's faced throughout her life. So her inclusion in TIME's The 100 Most Influential People list is testament to the actor's inspiring, unstoppable attitude — which is why Viola Davis' TIME 100 profile focuses on her hard work and the barriers she's overcome.
Following her Oscar win in 2017 for her role in Fences, her place on the TIME 100 list is incredibly fitting. Honored with an essay by Meryl Streep, which is impressive in itself, Davis' journey is highlighted, and it's clear that she's had to face a number of challenges to get where she is today. Streep writes,
In an industry that is often pitted against women, and particularly women of color, Davis has carved out a successful career that's an inspiration to people worldwide.
Back in Sept. 2015, she told the crowd at the National Women’s History Museum’s Women Making History Brunch, "It is my mission in life to make women of color a part of the narrative in our business.” Davis, of course, went on to become the first African-American actress to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama in 2015 for her work on How To Get Away With Murder, further proving that her life's work is focused on carving out a new path for women of color in Hollywood.
While the world shouldn't have had to wait until 2015 to see an African-American woman win this particular Emmy, the actor is quickly realizing her dream of creating opportunities for, and giving visibility to, women of color on TV and in movies. Her inclusion in TIME 100's list of most influential people proves that her impact on the industry has not gone unnoticed, and she's again giving a platform to the issues she cares most about.
Streep's comments that Davis' accomplishments have been "hard-won" and part of a "midlife rise" are also crucial to the actor's most recent honor. Having worked as an actor for over two decades, her success has neither been quick nor easy. Instead, Davis' commitment to her craft has shown her to be a determined, character actor, carefully crafting out unforgettable characters that audiences relate to, root for, and fall in love with.
At the age of 51, Davis has fought against ageism and sexism in the industry to prove that her talents shine beyond all of the unspoken injustices stacked against her. For women everywhere, Davis is a role model, proof that hard work can pay off, even when the odds aren't in your favor. She's a total inspiration, and I know I'm not alone in thinking that.