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Viola Davis on race in Hollywood: ‘Why do I have to be lighter than a paper bag in order to be sexualized?’

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“Through Her Eyes” is a weekly show hosted by human rights activist Zainab Salbi that explores contemporary news issues from a female perspective. You can watch the full episode of “Through Her Eyes” every Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on Roku, or at the bottom of this article.

Viola Davis has overcome plenty of obstacles to achieve success as an African-American actress in Hollywood. And now she is challenging all of the industry’s outdated conventions around race and age.

“I think that's the most important question you can ask as a person, is ‘Why?’” Davis said in an interview with Zainab Salbi for the Yahoo News show “Through Her Eyes.”

“Why do I have to be lighter than a paper bag in order to be sexualized? Why do I have to have a lighter voice? Why do I have to be younger?” she continued. “I reject everything anyone ever said about me or anyone who has ever looked like me.”

[SEE ALSO: Viola Davis’s message to white women: ‘Get to know me’]

Davis, the first black actor to win the “Triple Crown” of acting awards — a Tony, an Emmy and an Academy Award — said she recognizes that Hollywood is becoming more diverse, but she still sees a long way to go before the industry is truly inclusive.

“I absolutely acknowledge the change,” she said. “I would be a fool not to acknowledge the ‘Black Panther,’ the Ryan Cooglers, the Jordan Peeles, the number of black women, especially, who have production companies. But it hasn't stopped yet. More change needs to happen.”

Davis has also been critical of the pay disparity between white women and women of color in Hollywood. In an interview last year at Women in the World, Davis said she is often likened to “a black Meryl Streep,” yet isn’t paid at the same level as the three-time Academy Award winner.

“Pay me what I’m worth,” she said in that interview. But while speaking with “Through Her Eyes,” Davis walked back her remarks comparing her income to Streep’s.

“There's a part of me that feels like it’s not ladylike to talk about your pay — with me, anyway. We get paid an awful lot of money,” she said.

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