"At first, I just wanted to try really hard to make people see that I was pretty, that I wasn't just the drug addict from Antoine Fisher, so it was about proving something to someone", she explained.
Davis went on to describe how as a young girl she was determined to climb out of poverty, and that by starting out with so little, she is able to truly appreciate what she has now.
Davis on Sunday won the best supporting actress Oscar for "Fences", a role she originated in a Broadway revival seven years ago for which she won a Tony Award.
Viola Davis "fears" her daughter will grow up to be "entitled".
She started her speech at the cemetery. "I was one of those kids who were poor and knew it". "I have befriended people in the neighborhood, who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food, and I sacrificed a childhood for food and grew up in huge shame".
During her Oscars acceptance speech Davis paid tribute to her parents, thanking them for not being "stage parents" and for not trying to live their dreams through her. "I'm so glad you are the foundation of my life". "Who knew? So I'm overwhelmed". "Of dreaming big. Just hoping it sticks and it lands and it did", she said. We were poor. I wore hand-me-downs that did not fit, we used dish soap to wash our hair sometimes, we had a vehicle that could not drive in reverse.
Little did the star know that she'd be starring opposite Cicely in both The Help and her hit TV series How to Get Away with Murder, in which Viola plays high-profile defense attorney Annalise Keating.