Viola Davis frequently uses her platform to speak out against the structural dynamics that hurt Black women and other women of color. The prolific actress and producer illuminates an often-ignored dimension of Hollywood’s pay equity debate in a new cover story for Variety. The magazine’s Toronto International Film Festival issue debuted online today (September 4). 

Davis, whose “Widows” premieres at the festival on September 8, specifically calls out the lack of information around a pay disparity that affects her and other actresses of color: 

Women of color don’t get paid less than just male actors—their salaries pale in comparison with those of White women.

“There are no percentages to show the difference,” says Davis. “It’s vast. Hispanic women, Asian women, Black women, we don’t get paid what Caucasian women get paid. We just don’t.… We have the talent. It’s the opportunity that we’re lacking.”

“We’re not even invited to the table,” Davis adds. “I go to a lot of women’s events here in Hollywood, and they’re filled with female CEOs, producers and executives, but I’m one of maybe five or six people of color in the room.”

Davis also testifies about the importance of diverse representation, both on- and off-screen, in her own life. For instance, she notes that seeing Cicely Tyson in 1974’s “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” inspired her to become an actress. She and “Widows” director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) also share a discussion they had about her character’s hair:

The star of the upcoming film “Widows” needed to know what kind of wig or extensions she should wear to play Veronica Rawlins, the leader of an unlikely band of robbers scrambling to pull off a dangerous heist. Director Steve McQueen’s answer shocked the Emmy-, Tony- and Oscar-winning actress.

“I said, ‘Your own hair is beautiful—just wear it that way,’” recalls McQueen. “Veronica is a wash-and-go kind of girl.”

For Davis, the decision to appear on-screen in close-cropped, curly hair was liberating and represented an important social statement.

“You’re always taught as a person of color to not like your hair,” she says. “The kinkier it is, the so-called nappier it is, the uglier it is. …People have to know that there are different types of women of color. We’re not all Foxy Brown. We’re not all brown or light-skinned beauties with a big Afro. We have the girl next door. We have the older, dark-skinned, natural-haired woman.”

Read the full story at and see photos from the cover shoot below: