Oscars 2017: Viola Davis Becomes First Black Actor to Win an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony for Acting

Viola Davis becomes the first black woman to win the triple crown of acting.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

At the 89th Academy Awards, Viola Davis accepted the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role as Rose in the film Fences, cementing her place in award show history as the first black woman to win an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony for acting—an achievement known as the “triple crown.”

Davis is only the 23rd person to ever achieve triple-crown honors. The actress previously won an Emmy in 2015 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for playing Annalise Keating in the ABC show How to Get Away With Murder. She’s also won two Tony awards, once in 2001 for King Hedley II and then in 2010 for the Broadway production of Fences.

Other actors to achieve the status include Helen Mirren, Al Pacino, Maggie Smith, Jeremy Irons, Christopher Plummer, and most recently, Jessica Lange. Though Whoopi Goldberg is famously an EGOT winner, her Tony for Thoroughly Modern Millie was for producing, not acting (still an amazing accomplishment), thus setting Davis apart for her historic win.

Davis has been breaking records for most of her career. She was the first black woman to earn three Oscar nominations, the first black woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama, and the first black actress (and first woman of color) to win five Screen Actors Guild Awards—an honor she claimed just weeks ago for the Denzel Washington-directed film.

The win is an important one after recent #Oscarssowhite criticism, which served to highlight a lack of black nominees in any major acting categories. Davis’ record-breaking win shows steps step in the right direction, as does Mahershala Ali‘s historic win as the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar.

Davis tearfully accepted her award Sunday night with an emotional speech about being proud of her profession and being able to honor forgotten lives.

Thank you to the academy. You know, there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place and that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist and thank god I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.

Academy Award Winner’s Viola Davis’s Bold, Primary-Hued Style Evolution

Viola Davis arrives at the premiere screening of Law Abiding Citizen in 2009 wearing a shocking pink mini dress.

Frazer Harrison

Lime green is not a typical hue for a major awards show, but Davis made it work for the 64th Annual Tony Awards.

Bennett Raglin

Another green moment for Davis arrives at the 15th Annual Hollywood Film Awards Gala in 2011.

Steve Granitz

Davis attendded the The Academy’s 3rd Annual Governors Award Dinner in 2011 in gilded white.

Steve Granitz

A vision in red, Davis attends the 17th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards at Hollywood Palladium on January 12, 2012.

Steve Granitz

At the 23rd Annual Producers Guild Awards in 2012, Davis wore a gorgeous emerald green gown.

Jeffrey Mayer

Showing off her legs in caped burgundy, Davis arrives at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards in 2012.

George Pimentel

With a stunning jade dress at the 84th Annual Academy Awards, Davis kept her beauty look natural.

Gregg DeGuire

Davis channeled a Grecian goddess at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Donato Sardella

Davis arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2013 in one-shouldered turquoise.

Jeffrey Mayer

Yellow but most certainly not mellow at the 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards in 2013.

Steve Granitz

ZIg-zagging in electric blue, Davis arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere Ender’s Game in 2013.

Barry King

Another Academy Awards red carpet, another jaw-dropping green gown, here in 2014.

Frazer Harrison

A feminine and flirty look for a premiere screening of her hit television show How To Get Away With Murder.

Todd Wawrychuk

A dramatic crimson moment at the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards in 2015.

George Pimentel

Davis attends TNT’s 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in a white halter gown.

Theo Wargo

Taking home the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series award for How to Get Away With Murder, Davis steps out in a rare print.

Michael Kovac

Davis arrives at the The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards in a stunning beaded turquoise moment.

Steve Granitz

Opting for a jumpsuit over the classic gown, Davis arrives at the 10th Annual Women In Film Pre-Oscar Cocktail Party.

Steve Granitz

Contrasting blue stripes make for a statement moment at the 70th EE British Academy Film Awards.

Samir Hussein

To take home her Best Supporting Actress award, Davis chose a scarlet gown by Armani.

Steve Granitz

Viola Davis attends the Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 25, 2017 in New York City.


Viola Davis attends the Disney ABC Television Group TCA summer press tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 6, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.


Watch Viola Davis take W’s Screen Test: