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While we already knew Viola Davis was many things — strong, a humanitarian, Emmy award-winning, trailblazing — we had no idea she was also a closeted beauty junkie.
The 51-year-old actress recently returned to Central Falls, R.I., where she was raised, to host a community health fair with the Vaseline Healing Project. Davis spoke to Yahoo Beauty about why the Healing Project is close to her heart, her struggle with skin care growing up, and her obsession with beauty products that grew out of it.
Yahoo Beauty: First of all, talk to us about your involvement with the Healing Project.
Viola Davis: Vaseline has partnered with Direct Relief (a humanitarian aid program that provides humanitarian aid relief and medical relief to people in areas of crisis around the world) because a lot of health care workers say if they just had petroleum jelly it would make their work so much easier. And so the Vaseline Healing Project is providing things like this free health clinic today with free blood tests, blood pressure screenings, flu shots, and there’s a dermatologist on site. They’ve come to Central Falls because that’s my hometown and it’s my heart, and also because 1 out of 3 people in Central Falls complained that they are in fair to poor health. And for me, that is a direct extension of poverty and not having access to the kind of health care that you need to not be in poor health.
How does it feel for you to be able to bring this kind of fair back to where you grew up?
It feels right. It feels perfect — I use that word to describe things that emotionally in a humanitarian way are just right. It feels right; it feels like because this is about humans — Direct Relief, this is not about profits. This is about helping people to live a better life. And in a day and age when so much is about profit, and so much is about individual and self-promotion, it’s beautiful to find that.
As a woman of color, how have you personally struggled with dry skin growing up?
Oh, my entire life it’s been a struggle. I’m an African-American so you see my dry skin. They call it “ash.” We say “it looks like you’ve been rolling around in some flour.” So, I struggled because I grew up in poverty so we had to use Vaseline. It was affordable, it was readily available, and it worked wonders most importantly. And it was multipurpose. My sister used it when she burnt the whole side of her face making sugar candy — it soothed her burns. We had a lot of dry, cracked skin that ended up being cracked in our joints, and the Vaseline soothed that. And I still use it to this day on my daughter and on the bottom of my feet. It’s my go-to product.
Are there any strange things that you use it for?
I put it on my toe because I’m having issues with heels now. I put it on my toe because what it does is it relieves friction when you put it on shoes. So, you can easily slip into your shoes — you should try it.
What other products have you turned to over the years?
I’m a product junkie. My name is Viola Davis and I am a product junkie. Brown Sugar Scrub by Fresh is one of my favorites. Oh, but my favorite, favorite, favorite — I think it’s an emotional experience — is the Ginger Eucalyptus [Body Polisher] by Molton Brown. I use that on my skin. And, GlamGlow at Sephora, which I use a little bit too much. And, I love oils … any oils.
A video posted by How to Get Away with Murder (@howtogetawaywithmurder) on Sep 29, 2016 at 7:18pm PDT
You bare your skin quite a bit on “How to Get Away With Murder.” How do you keep it healthy?
Well, I’ve had issues with this No. 1 thing that helps my skin, which is sleep. I’m just so busy. What I’m doing now is I go to sleep earlier at night and I’m sleeping more, and I’m asking for more time off which has helped me exponentially. Steam helps, too. Now I have a steam shower and it helps a lot and takes out the impurities. And, drinking more water — which is instrumental. Also, I have to say, especially at night, lately oils help on my skin as a moisturizer. I like the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate.
Is there anything that your mother taught you about your beauty routine while you were growing up that has really stuck with you?
We weren’t thinking about beauty back in the day, but she has always been blissfully, confidently, absolutely who she is. She hasn’t really put on a lot of things to look like someone else. She isn’t a big makeup person; she doesn’t really wear makeup at all. She doesn’t do any of that and never has, and she has always eaten very well — like she loves Fig Newtons over Oreos — and she always felt free to express herself.
Are you trying to pass any of those teachings on to your own daughter?
Yes, I try to. Now if I do her hair, and I think this is just a ploy for me not to do her hair, she’s like,
“Mommy, stop. It doesn’t matter how you look. It’s how you feel, it’s who you are on the inside, Mommy.”
A photo posted by Viola Davis (@violadavis) on Jan 20, 2016 at 12:32pm PST