Davis scores more than a Grammy at the Grammys


Chrisa Hickey, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Viola Davis recently became one of 18 artists to earn Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards, granting her EGOT status.

Noah Curtis Lee, Staff Writer

The 65th annual Grammy Awards took place in Los Angeles on Feb. 5, and the night drew out plenty of controversy from its audience: Many fans were upset at the useless audience transition segments, Trevor Noah’s confusing host bits and Harry Styles beating Beyonce for the Best Album Award.

Regardless, the night was still an unprecedented success for many artists. Despite her Best Album snub, Beyonce broke the individual record for most Grammys with an astounding 32 awards. Viola Davis also had a remarkable night, winning her way to an EGOT (which is an informal term for having an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award). However, Davis’ win left many viewers wondering: Just how prestigious is EGOT status?

Currently, there are only 18 EGOTs, including Davis. Although the title comes with no technical benefits, many aspiring actors and actresses see the achievement as a career capstone, so much so that it has gained a reputation for being the colloquial “grand slam” of the show business. By earning EGOT status, Davis is joining a rare and prestigious group of entertainment legends, such as Richard Rodgers, Audrey Hepburn, Mel Brooks and Whoopi Goldberg.

Davis achieved her final required award at the Grammys, winning the award for Best Audio Book, Narration & Storytelling Recording. She received the award for her autobiographical audiobook “Finding Me,” published in April. The audiobook has been a great commercial and critical success, garnering unanimous acclaim from audiences. In fact, the book currently has a 4.9 review rating on Audible with more than 29,000 reviews. The nine-hour-long best seller was written, produced and narrated by Davis, and it details her upbringing and rise to fame from the quaint neighborhoods of Central Falls, Rhode Island.

In many ways, Davis’s tale is a modern rags-to-riches narrative, though contextualized through the frame of 20th century America. The release of “Finding Me” seems almost therapeutic for Davis, as if she is laying thoughts bare that have been grating on her conscience for decades. As she said in her own words, “In my book, you will meet a little girl named Viola who ran from her past until she made a life-changing decision to stop running forever.”

Davis had a successful career long before her audiobook was released. Throughout the past two decades, her acting career has propelled her to household stardom, and viewers are familiar with her roles in films such as “The Suicide Squad,” “The Help” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Davis’s career supersedes just Hollywood, though.

In fact, Davis acquired her first EGOT requisite in the theater. In 2001, she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her Broadway performance in the play “King Hedley II.” In 2010, she would again win a Tony Award, this time for her leading performance in August Wilson’s “Fences.”

Davis’s career continued to skyrocket well into the 2010s. In 2014, Davis was given an opportunity to break into the realm of television: She was cast in the ABC show “How to Get Away with Murder,” which would be one of the performative cornerstones of her career. In 2015, she became the first Black woman to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Then in 2016, Davis reprised her Tony-winning role in “Fences.” This time, however, it was for a film adaptation. The film did commercially well at the box office, and it was nominated for four Academy Awards, including one for Best Supporting Actress. And, at the 89th annual Academy Awards, that award went to — you guessed it — Davis, making her only one Grammy away from an EGOT.

Now, it is traditionally incredibly hard for actors and actresses to acquire Grammy Awards. In fact, many promising actors and actresses have been barred from EGOT status because of their inability to win one. Stars including Ingrid Bergman, Al Pacino, Frances McDormand, Helen Mirren and Liza Minelli, though in possession of the other three awards, have been unable to get their hands on a golden gramophone.

Most of the time, EGOTs who are career actors win Grammys through alternative, more spoken types of auditory media. This is the case with four EGOTs preceding Davis: Audrey Hepburn, Helen Hayes, John Gielgud and Whoopi Goldberg. Each of these four individuals were primarily actors and obtained their Grammys in categories not closely associated with the prestigious music awards, such as Best Spoken Word Album, Best Comedy Album and Best Spoken Word Album for Children. Davis followed their example, winning her last EGOT requisite for her audiobook.

Though EGOT status is considered by many to be the final pinnacle of entertainment awards, Davis’s career is continuing strongly. Her most recent film was “The Woman King,” which released in September. She is also set to star in a number of upcoming films, most notably the new highly anticipated Hunger Games prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” With all these future projects, it’s safe to assume Davis will continue to be an important figure in Hollywood, and it doesn’t seem like that fact will change anytime soon.