Viola Davis
Viola Davis (Photo: Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images)

It’s a big night for Viola Davis. On Sunday, April 25, Davis and her husband walked the red carpet — calling it calm — at the 93rd annual Academy Awards in Hollywood in a white Alexander McQueen gown with laser cutouts and Forevermark diamonds. Davis is a Best Actress nominee for Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, making Oscar history with her 4th nomination. She is now the most-nominated Black actress ever, and the only Black woman with two Best Actress nominations. (Andra Day is also nominated for Best Actress for her role in Hulu’s The United States vs. Billie Holiday.)

Davis told E! Live From the Red Carpet Rundown host Giuliana Rancic it was important for her to honor Ma Rainey from an authentic place. “I didn’t want to have to apologize,” Davis told Rancic. It was important for the actress to look and dress exactly as Rainey had. For her role, Davis donned a bodysuit to help her portray the full-figured 1920s blues singer, also wearing gold teeth — which her husband apparently loved. Davis’ husband Julius Tennon told Rancic he loved the way his wife looked wearing the gold teeth. 

According to The Wrap, Ma Rainey’s gold teeth were manufactured by the same special effects department that did work on How to Get Away With Murder, especially the series finale in which several characters were aged. “They already had a mold of Viola’s teeth,” makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera said.

“The first set we tried had a lot more gold in the bottom teeth, but it was so much gold that it was distracting, so we went with the slightly less heavy version.” Further, hair stylist Mia Neal told The Wrap: “During one of the early wig fittings, Viola said to me, ‘In this time period, Black women weren’t often described as being beautiful. But in this particular case, everyone made a point of saying Ma was unattractive. So we have to listen to that.’ How often do you get permission to do that with an actress?”