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Viola Davis on Aging, Inspiration and Leaving a Legacy

The recently minted L'Oréal Paris spokeswoman spoke as part of the brand's new Age Perfect launch.

“My beauty icon is David Beckham,” said Helen Mirren to a room of laughs at a panel hosted by L’Oréal in Los Angeles. “He’s gorgeous. And he’s metrosexual, which I love…I love David Beckham.”

“The tattoos,” chimed in Viola Davis. The two actresses, 74 years old and 54 years old, respectively, are spokeswomen for L’Oréal’s newest campaign — Age Perfect, a line dedicated to women who are aged 50 years and older.

On a more serious note, Davis said her beauty icon was her mother. “And I always say, Miss Cicely Tyson. That was it for me. It started and ended there,” said the producer and actress, who’s the first black thespian to receive the “Triple Crown” of the industry, receiving an Oscar, Emmy and two Tony awards.

What made her say yes to L’Oréal? “They mentioned that this is the first time we’ve had a woman of your age, 54, a dark-skinned black woman as a global brand ambassador,” Davis told WWD earlier in the day. “My big word at this point in my life is legacy. What do I want my legacy to be? What you leave behind has to be something that’s bigger than yourself, something that people can benefit from in their spirit.

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“I know what Miss Tyson did to me when I saw her in ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’ when I was seven, eight years old,” she continued. “It made me believe that I could dream, that I could be someone.…I would love to give that gift to another girl of color — to any girl of course, but to any girl of color, absolutely. It’s a part of my legacy.”

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Looking back, when it comes to her definition and idea of beauty, she would tell her younger self that “she was enough,” she shared. “L’Oréal has the perfect mantra which is, ‘I’m worth it.’ We’re worth it. You’re worth it. You cannot build on a foundation of anything other than self-love.”

Working in Hollywood, she said, continues to be a challenge: “I’ve experienced threefold: being a woman, being a woman of 54 and being a woman of color. That’s a triple whammy. You want to talk a lack of roles? It’s of biblical proportions. You have to control the narrative.”

She’s doing just that with the production company she runs with her husband Julius Tennon, JuVee Productions. She wants to produce “everything,” she said with a smile, donning a bright red lipstick. They’re working on a number of projects, including an adaptation of the novel “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree,” as well as a “black Golden Girls,” and a biopic on former First Lady Michelle Obama.

“My imagination is the only limit to what our production company can do,” added Davis. “And there is no limit in my imagination.”