“There’s a life beyond the tragedy, there’s life even within the tragedy, and there was a life before the tragedy,” Viola Davis and Regina King collaborated unusually, but the result was amazing.

Viola Davis in a shoot directed by Regina King, for W Magazine. The significance of this shoot is not just the contents but the coming together of two icons to tell a story.

A story that was told using music, fashion and acting. Viola Davis, her daughter Genesis, her husband Julius Tennon were the major characters of the shoot. 

Photographed by Andre D. Wagner

Showing a family on a normal Saturday afternoon, the parents go out that night and the next day, a Sunday they attend church. After the church service, when they get home, the mom gets a phone call with devastating news.

Regina wanted to show the constant limbo black people in America are in emotionally and mentally because of its relationship with blackness. That on a daily basis, even with everything that is going on, there are moments of pure joy. And when you see no way out of the painful situation sometimes putting on a good song like Nina Simone’s I Shall be Released-that will comfort you, helps you see through the pain.

Photographed by Andre D. Wagner

This is not Regina’s first part as a director. One Night in Miami... was her directorial debut. After that, she directed episodes on Scandal and Insecure. These were opportunities for her to tell a story about what it is like to exist as a Black person in the USA. In her projects, she has dissected and portrayed issues like colorism, economic progress as Black Americans, and the roles that celebrities and public play in advocating for social issues.

Viola spoke eloquently about the white gaze and being bothered in Hollywood, by executives especially. Viola was told that a woman who looks like her cannot have a good-looking husband on the show How To Get Away With Murder, which can only be attributed to the masculinization of dark-skinned women, because of colorism.

But the Viola’s refusal to capitulate to that way of thinking and her refusal to let people define how she views herself or moves forward with her life. A perfect example of how she has found a life outside of the tragedy, the tragedy being systemic racism in the workplace and overt racism that black people encounter on the street. 

Photographed by Andre D. Wagner

The purpose of the shoot was to show life for black people in totality, as Regina said. That there is life outside of the pain. Just their experiences with pain, which is what made this pair perfect for this shoot, defines black people.

viola davis for W Magazine
Photographed by Andre D. Wagner

Outside of directing, Regina has had a long and successful career as an actor in the Boondocks, Boyz n the Hood, Southland and Poetic Justice. Winning a Golden Globe, Emmy, and Oscar for her various roles. Viola Davis just last year was the star of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which is not the first project she starred in that became critically acclaimed because of her specifically. Viola has won an Emmy, and Oscar and a Golden Globe, a testament that she can body any role respectfully.

This W Magazine was an amalgamation of collaborations, with the stylist being Ruth E. Carter and the photographer Andre D. Wagner, who helped arrange the shoot with Regina.

The location for the shoot was Los Angeles in West Adams, a neighborhood that holds cultural significance to Black people in America.

Regina realizes that each black person has aa different story to tell, and that makes her so great, realizing that people’s experiences do not have to be told the same way because our stories are not either.

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