‘Oprah + Viola’ may be one of the best things to debut on Netflix in the last year  

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If you’re a fan of “How to Get Away with Murder” or “The Help,” then Oprah Winfrey’s newest Netflix special “Oprah + Viola” is a must watch. Oprah sits down with actress Viola Davis to have a candid conversation about her soon-to-be released book, “Finding Me: A Memoir.”  

“Finding Me: A Memoir” details Viola’s life from beginning to present, including how she began her life in a poverty and violence stricken household and ended up a famous actress. She described the hardships of living in extreme poverty. Hearing rats chewing the face off of her dolls, covering her neck to stop them from biting her in the night, living in a house with no heat in the middle of  Rhode Island winter,  and not knowing anything about personal hygiene are only some of the hardships Viola Davis endured in her young life. She equates her dream of acting to her salvation. It was more than an end goal; acting was her ticket out of the life she knew and never wanted to repeat.  

Davis knew she wanted to be an actor from the first skit she ever performed at the age of nine. She tells Oprah, “Whatever I can’t express in my life, I can do it in a character.” Being an extremely poor, Black woman living in a house where she witnessed domestic and sexual abuse, Viola says expressing your own life in your real life brings about shame. While she could smell her own stench, she didn’t know what to do about it because she had never been taught proper hygiene. When the “dirty old man across the street” offers you a quarter in exchange for a kiss, no one bats an eye. Thanks to her sister’s encouragement, Viola switched her major to theater, despite being fearful of not making any money. She says she realized: “All courage is, is fear said with prayers.”  

“Oprah + Viola” was one of the most impactful ways I have spent 45 minutes of my life all year. It was one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences. As a White woman living in an affluent family, I have never experienced many, if not all, of the things Viola has. Nonetheless, listening to her story grounded me and brought me out of the bubble that I occasionally catch myself living in. Her raw emotion and unfiltered stories gave a rare depiction of what life is like for many people in this world. Furthermore, I can’t imagine how many young Black girls will be inspired by her story, knowing the possibility of rising out of poverty and achieving financial independence is possible, even though it may not seem like it at the moment. 

I highly recommend “Oprah + Viola” to anyone who has a Netflix account. If you don’t, find someone’s password and use it. It’s a must-watch. I promise you won’t be disappointed.  

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars  

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