Viola Davis Sparks One Woman to Explore and Redefine "Classic" Beauty

Viola Davis recently won a People's Choice Award for her work on How to Get Away With Murder, and in her acceptance speech, she thanked Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, and Peter Nowalk for "thinking of a leading lady who looks like [her] classic beauty." To the uninformed, this may have seemed like a standard showing of appreciation for one's colleagues, but those in the know immediately understood Viola's reference. This September, The New York Times wrote up a review of the hit television series that described Viola as "less classically beautiful":

"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, who played an astronaut on the summer mini-series Extant."

In response to the article, ABC's #TGIT (Thank God It's Thursday) fans took to Instagram and Twitter in outrage. Black women began to post photos on Instagram tagged #lessclassicallybeautiful to show that black beauty knows no bounds, but journalist Abi Ishola has taken it to another level, creating a photo story.

She enlisted the help of her friends to represent a diverse range of African American and biracial women to prove that all women are gorgeous — no matter the age, skin color, hair type, or ethnicity. Her tagline: beyond classically beautiful. You can purchase the custom t-shirts ($25) on Etsy and see more of the photos on Ishola's blog, Scripts and Sightings. Oh, and we should probably also mention that Viola's work on How to Get Away With Murder has also garnered her nominations for a SAG Award and Golden Globe Award. We'll have to wait until those shows to see if Viola wins, but until then, browse Ishola's powerful image essay and tell us what you think of classic beauty in the comments.

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Kunle Ayodeji