Viola Davis is one of the brightest stars in Hollywood after picking up first Oscar win, but it took her years to become the strong, confident woman who just became the most nominated black actress of all time.
“I was one of those people that everyone knew, but I didn’t have a lot of friends. I didn’t date or do any of that stuff. I was overweight and very, very shy,” the Fences star tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story.
Davis, who grew up in extreme poverty, adds that she was “definitely not a snazzy dresser” and “definitely didn’t wear makeup.” A self-described “geek,” Davis says she was “always looking for a way to express what was in me, my thoughts, and I found it through theater, so that was where I thrived.” If she did not have that outlet, Davis says, “I probably would have imploded.”
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But expressing herself through theater did not improve her confidence overnight. “My confidence took time. It really did, to come into myself,” she says. “It took many years of getting knocked down and getting back up to finally say, ‘Okay, I think I’m pretty tough. I’ve got this.’