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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, March 2, 2024

Viola Davis becomes the third Black woman to achieve EGOT status

viola-davis
Recent EGOT winner Viola Davis is pictured.

The 2023 Grammy Awards brought major shocks and surprises for those who tuned in — some good, some bad. While Beyonce became the most awarded artist in Grammy history, another woman also achieved a major milestone. With her win for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording for her memoir “Finding Me,” Viola Davis achieved EGOT status, making her the 18th person to achieve this award and the fourth Black performer. 

An EGOT is considered the most coveted achievement in the entertainment industry, showing a breadth of talent and craft, as the achievement means a performer has won awards in various fields. The achievement is an acronym for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar (also known as the Academy Award), and Tony — the four top awards in television, music, film, and theater, respectively. 

Davis began her journey to EGOT status in 2001 with her first Tony Award win for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role in “King Hedley II.” Fourteen years after her Tony, Davis went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama for her portrayal of Annalise Keating in “How To Get Away With Murder” (201420). Just one year later, Davis won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film “Fences” (2016), for which she had previously won a Tony for the stage version in 2010. Now, Davis is an official EGOT winner, with her Grammy being the last award she needed to achieve this landmark status. 

Since the EGOT marks achievements in four different genres of entertainment, it is an incredibly rare honor to achieve, and Davis is well deserving of this honor. Not only is Davis the fourth Black performer, and third Black woman, to complete an EGOT, but she also has continuously set records and broken boundaries throughout her career. 

Davis was the first person of color to win the Emmy for Best Lead Actress. Additionally, at the 2021 Academy Awards, Davis was nominated for Best Actress in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (2020), which made her the most nominated Black actress in Academy history. While on the topic of the Academy Awards, Davis is also the only Black woman to receive two Best Actress nominations. 

Prior to Davis achieving EGOT status, the last person to attain this prestigious honor was Jennifer Hudson. Hudson started her EGOT with an Oscar when she won Best Supporting Actress for “Dreamgirls” (2006) in 2007. Her 2009 self-titled album won her a Grammy; her Emmy and Tony came over a decade after. In 2021, the interactive, animated film that she co-produced won her the Emmy, and her Tony came a year after in 2022 for co-producing the musical “A Strange Loop,” which won Best Musical. 

Davis and Hudson demonstrate that achieving EGOT status is no small feat. It took both performers over a decade, with Davis’ journey spanning 22 years and Hudson’s spanning 15 years. Whoopi Goldberg is the only other Black woman to complete an EGOT; it took Goldberg 16 years, winning her final awards, the Emmy and Tony, in 2002. While it is important to celebrate the accomplishments of these brilliant women, it is similarly necessary to acknowledge the industry challenges that face Black women, lending to only three EGOTs.

Following her fourth Oscar nomination, Davis said in an interview, “If me, going back to the Oscars four times in 2021, makes me the most nominated Black actress in history, that's a testament to the sheer lack of material there has been out there for artists of color." 

Though the industry has seen an increase in representation in recent years, actors and actresses of color are still underrepresented and few stories center around them. Actresses like Saoirse Ronan and Jennifer Lawrence both received at least four Oscar nominations by the time they were 25 years old. Yes, it is a testament to their talent, but it is also telling of the increased opportunities white actors have that they were able to be a part of those films. 

Aside from Goldberg, Hudson and Davis, there have been only three other performers of color to achieve competitive EGOT status. Rita Moreno is the only Latina, Robert Lopez is the only Asian American, and John Legend is the only Black man. 

Looking forward, there are many performers of color who are only one award away from EGOT status. Cynthia Erivo, Audra McDonald and Billy Porter are all just an Oscar away. The title of “EGOT winner” is an impressive honor for any performer to receive and Davis’ completion of this title is something deserving of great praise. However, as Davis has discussed herself, change needs to be made in the industry to allow more actors, actresses, directors and producers of color to be given the same opportunity as their white counterparts.