CAMBRIDGE, MA - MARCH 04: Viola Davis receives the Artist of the Year Award at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre on March 4, 2017 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Natasha Moustache/Getty Images)
Natasha Moustache—Getty Images
March 6, 2017 12:24 PM EST

For Viola Davis, pursuing a career in acting wasn’t always easy.

The Academy Award-winning actress gave a powerful speech about her road to stardom while accepting Harvard’s 2017 Artist of the Year Award. According to CNN, the Fences star felt frustrated while she was attending the prestigious Julliard School.

“I spent so many years at Juilliard just wanting to beat somebody up,” Davis said. “I think it was the height of my anger; that chip on my shoulder. I’m still trying to take care of that chip on my shoulder, by the way. It was mainly because I felt my voice as an artist was being stifled.”

But now, she says that her craft is “sacred” — because she can highlight others’ stories.

“Because really, at the end of the day, even what I do as an artist, when I channel characters and people and their stories and those moments in their lives that we sometimes hide, that we feel like is just our mess, our shame. I want people to be seen,” she said. “I want them to feel less alone.”


More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Write to Samantha Cooney at

Read More From TIME
You May Also Like