Viola Davis speaks onstage during the 22nd Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)
Jerod Harris—WireImage
By Aurelie Corinthios / People
December 12, 2016

Viola Davis delivered some very powerful words at the Critics’ Choice Awards Sunday night.

The actress, who won the best supporting actress award for her role in Fences and is nominated for best actress in a drama series for How to Get Away with Murder, was also the recipient of the first-ever #SeeHer award. The award, presented by the Association of National Advertisers in conjunction with A&E, honored Davis for her work furthering the movement’s efforts to accurately portray women and girls in the media.

Actress Amy Adams presented Davis with the award and Emma Stone led the standing ovation for the star, who took the stage to deafening applause.

“Thank you,” said Davis, 51, who was clearly emotional. “It’s hard to accept being a role model for women when you’re trying to lose weight.”

“I’ve always discovered the heart of my characters by asking: ‘Why?’ ” she continued. “When I was handed Annalise Keating [of HTGAWM] I said: ‘She’s sexy, she’s mysterious … I’m used to playing women that [I] have to gain 40 lbs. [for] and wear an apron.”

“So I said: ‘Oh, I’ve got to lose weight, I’ve got to learn how to walk like Kerry Washington in heels,’ …” she went on. “And then I asked myself: ‘Well, why do I have to do all of that?’ ”

“I truly believe that the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are and I just recently embraced that at 51,” she said.

And the evening is certainly shaping up beautifully for the star: Davis took the stage again shortly afterwards to accept the best supporting actress award for her role in Fences, thanking her costar and director Denzel Washington, as well the cast and crew, for honoring late playwright August Wilson, who wrote the original 1983 play.

“Thank you so much … for having the courage and the vision to bring August Wilson to the screen,” she said. “But most importantly: the leader, the captain, Denzel Washington, who said the two scariest words an actor can ever hear: ‘Trust me.’ ”

“Usually that’s because you can’t trust a lot of people with a performance in this business,” she added. “But we trusted you, you delivered as a leader and you’ve made us proud and most importantly, you’ve made August proud. Thank you very much.”

The Critics’ Choice Awards, hosted by T.J. Miller and presented in partnership with Entertainment Weekly, are airing live Sunday night on A&E.

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