Viola Davis is the newest spokeswoman for L'oreal Paris

Viola Davis is the new global face for L'oreal Paris
Image: Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist - Season 31
Viola Davis speaks with Willie Geist on "Today" on April 25, 2019.Mike Smith / TODAY

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By Gwen Aviles

Award-winning actress Viola Davis is L’oreal Paris’ newest international spokeswoman, the beauty brand announced on Tuesday.

The 54-year-old “How to Get Away With Murder” star made her debut as spokeswoman at an event earlier this week and will appear in print, TV and digital advertisements for L’oreal Paris’ “Age Perfect,” the brand’s product line for mature skin.

"We are thrilled to welcome Viola as a member of our family. Viola's tenacity, authenticity and bold spirit resonate with and inspire so many people,” said Delphine Viguier-Hovasse, Global Brand President of L'Oréal Paris, in a statement. “She challenges the status quo in all aspects of life and her drive to succeed has proven itself time after time – she leads by example and is the perfect conduit to elevate our core message, 'Because I'm Worth It.'"

Davis’ latest role as a beauty ambassador for one of the world's largest makeup companies is made all the more significant by the fact that she has been publicly judged as not being conventionally beautiful.

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In a 2014 profile of producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, that has since been heavily rebuked, New York Times journalist Alessandra Stanley wrote that Davis is “sexual and even sexy, in a slightly menacing way, but the actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama.”

Stanley added that in casting Davis, Rhimes ignored “narrow” beauty standards, writing that the producer “chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. [Kerry] Washington.”

The piece received immediate backlash for its comments about Davis and its suggestion that Shonda Rhimes is an “angry black woman” — a stereotype often launched against black women in an attempt to invalidate them. And Davis catapulted to widespread fame with her portrayal of Annalise Keating, a criminal defense lawyer and law professor. In 2015, Davis became the first black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for the role.

One standout moment from “How to Get Away With Murder” that garnered major discussion occurred in episode four of the series, when Davis as Keating removes her wig and makeup, revealing her natural hair and bare face onscreen. Davis herself pitched the scene in her first conversation with Peter Nowalk, creator of the show, whose sixth and final season premieres later this month.

Davis has also fought against beauty codes off-screen.

At the 2012 Academy Awards, the best actress nominee sparked conversation when she attended the event wearing her natural hair.

"As a young girl, I wasn't always told that I was smart, beautiful, or worthy. I worked tremendously hard to get where I am today — overcoming feelings of doubt to become a woman who truly believes I am 'worth it' in every way. I believe it's so important to build confidence in women from a young age, and to role model diverse perspectives of beauty,” said Davis in a statement. “To now be part of a brand that has been championing women's worth for more than 40 years and to use my voice to help empower others is truly surreal.”

Davis has also been recognized for her humanitarian work and philanthropy. She is a children’s book author and published a sequel to “Corduroy,” titled “Corduroy Takes A Bow,” in 2018. Along with her husband, Julius Tennon, she founded JuVee Productions, which develops independent projects that focus on diverse and inclusive storytelling.