How Viola Davis is changing Hollywood makes her Walk of Fame star that much cooler.

The 2,597th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is going to Viola Davis.

The ceremony for Davis, who Walk of Fame producer Ana Martinez described as an actress "who always mesmerizes fans with her talent," is set for Jan. 5, 2017.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.


Davis rose to stardom after 2008's "Doubt," then snagged an Academy Award nomination for her performance in 2011's "The Help," and is currently starring on ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder" ("HTGAWM"). There's also Oscar buzz surrounding her performance in the Denzel Washington-directed "Fences." She's certainly deserving of the honor on merit alone.

Powerhouse performances aside, the news about Davis' Hollywood star feels especially right at this time given that she's often been the empowering, important breath of fresh air Hollywood so desperately needs.

Here are seven reasons to be excited about Davis' star on the Walk of Fame:

1. Davis was the first woman of color ever to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2015.

"The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity," she said on stage during her historic victory. "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there." She's got a point: Leading roles for black women are few and far between.

Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images.

2. Davis currently stars on ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder" as Annalise Keating, a queer woman of color — a type of character we don't see nearly enough.

Along with the lack of opportunity for actors and actresses of color, there's also a lack of on-screen positive representation of certain groups within the LGBTQ community. Keating, a successful lawyer, isn't defined by her bisexuality nor does the character fall into the damaging tropes we often associate with bisexual people.

"I loved the relationship," Davis told AfterEllen of Keating's on-screen romance with a woman. "There was something so natural about it. And I just thought it made sense because I think in Annalise’s life, she just migrates toward anyone who shows her love."

3. Davis demanded she not wear a wig, weave, or makeup during a powerful scene in order to better reflect underrepresented women.

"I was so adamant about it," Davis said of fighting to be wig and makeup-free in the scene on "How to Get Away With Murder." "I said, 'Listen, she can’t go to bed with her wig on. She cannot be in that bedroom with her wig on because women don’t go to bed with their wigs on.' And I said, ‘A whole portion of women out there are marginalized. I want to be a real woman. Let’s go for it.'"

GIF via "How to Get Away With Murder."

There's a long history of black women being told their natural hair is unprofessional, ugly, and distracting. Because of these (super racist) perceptions, it's not every day we see black actresses rocking their natural looks on TV. While there's of course nothing wrong with any woman wearing wigs or styling their hair whichever way they please, Davis' decision to go au naturel meant a lot to many women watching.

4. Davis has become a body-positivity champion in an industry that could use a lot of work on the topic.

At the Critics Choice Awards earlier this month, Davis accepted the first-ever #SeeHer Award, which was created by a campaign aimed at ending bias against women in the media. Her acceptance speech, focused on staying true to yourself and discovering the privilege of being who you are, instantly went viral:

"You know, when I was handed Annalise Keating, I said, 'She’s sexy, she’s mysterious, you know?' I’m used to playing women who gotta gain 40 pounds and have to wear an apron. So I said, 'Oh God, I gotta to lose weight, I gotta learn how to walk like Kerry Washington in heels, you know, I gotta lose my belly.' And then I asked myself, 'Well, why do I have to do all that?' I truly believe that the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, and I just recently embraced that at 51."

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Critics' Choice Awards.

5. Davis has spoken out about the absurdity of women — especially woman of color — getting paid less than men for doing equal work.

Actresses — even the most accomplished, successful ones — routinely get paid less than their male counterparts. It doesn't sit well with Davis.

"I’m sorry, if a woman does the same job as a man, she should be paid the same amount of money, she just should," Davis told Mashable in February 2016. "But at the same time, with me as an actress of color, I have to say to probably contradict myself, that’s not something I think about on a daily basis. Because the struggle for us as women of color is just to be seen the same as our white female counterparts."

6. Davis won't accept the unfair ways Hollywood portrays women of certain ages and body sizes when it comes to their sexuality.

"We've been fed a whole slew of lies about women," she told Elle in January 2016. "[On TV], if you are anywhere above a size two, you're not having sex. You don't have sexual thoughts. You may not even have a vagina. And if you're of a certain age, you're off the table."

7. Davis understands that life is too short to give any credence to the haters. Instead, focus on the people who love you just the way you are.  

"When my father was passing — it was really a short period of time — I think that started the ball rolling," Davis told Oprah in 2012. "You don’t have time. You’re on this earth for a dash of time, really, and then that’s it. ... Knowing that, it just changed everything. I felt like I don’t have any time to stay up all night, worrying about what someone who doesn’t love me has to say about me."

Davis' acting chops are more than enough to land her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, period. But the icing on the cake tastes so much sweeter knowing the star's going to an actress making this world a better place off-screen, too.

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."