Actress Viola Davis is now a member of perhaps the most exclusive clubs in show business: EGOT winners.
In doing so, she became the 18th person — and third Black woman — to ever achieve the honor.
“I just EGOT!” Davis shouted as she accepted the award.
Hold the line !!!!!!! Viola Davis just became EGOT #18 !!! Omg @violadavis U are absolutely everything ! Congratulations to a living LEGEND. Time to celebrate !!! pic.twitter.com/jwZZeY9y3a— Jennifer Hudson (@IAMJHUD) February 5, 2023
Davis began her work in theater, but her career has spanned from Shondaland to the DC Comics universe (where she played Amanda Waller in both “Suicide Squad” films and “Black Adam”).
Her journey to the EGOT started in earnest in 2001, when she won a Tony for best featured actress for her role as Tonya in the play “King Hedley II,” which examined the life of Black Americans throughout the 20th century. But she really became a household name with her Emmy-winning role of Annalise Keating in Shonda Rhimes’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” which made her the first Black woman to win in the lead actress drama category.
She later won an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2017 for her role as Rose Maxson in “Fences,” where she acted alongside Denzel Washington as his impassioned wife.
The famous acronym was coined by “Miami Vice” actor Philip Michael Thomas in 1984, who stated his (sadly, unfulfilled) desire to win all four awards within five years. The EGOT-less actor later tried to backtrack his statements, claiming EGOT stood for “Energy, Growth, Opportunity, and Talent” in an interview with the Miami Herald.
The term wouldn’t gain traction in the mainstream until NBC’s “30 Rock” made it into a bit circa 2009. Fictional eccentric comedian Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), perhaps the least likely candidate for the honor, aspired to this lofty goal after encountering Thomas’s bejeweled EGOT necklace, and its relevance exploded from there.
Technically, composer Richard Rodgers became the first EGOT winner in 1962, more than two decades before the term was actually coined. In the ensuing six decades, seventeen more followed. Here’s the full list:
- Richard Rodgers
- Helen Hayes
- Rita Moreno
- John Gielgud
- Audrey Hepburn
- Marvin Hamlisch
- Jonathan Tunick
- Mel Brooks
- Mike Nichols
- Whoopi Goldberg
- Scott Rudin
- Robert Lopez
- Andrew Lloyd Webber
- Tim Rice
- John Legend
- Alan Menken
- Jennifer Hudson
- Viola Davis
Whoopi Goldberg became the first Black EGOT winner in 2002, with John Legend and Jennifer Hudson soon following. Hudson tweeted her support of Davis, writing “Congratulations to a living LEGEND. Time to celebrate !!!”
Congratulations poured in from across the internet, with praises coming from such disparate sources as tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who referred to Davis as her “hero” to Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) who called the honor a “much deserved achievement for an incredible talent.”
“Finding Me,” Davis’s memoir that cinched her EGOT status, “plunges into her childhood trauma.” The book punctuates Davis’s lofty accomplishments as well as the racism, generational abuse, sexual assault and poverty she survived.
“The process and artistry of piecing together a human being completely different from you was the equivalent of being otherworldly,” wrote Davis. “It also has the power to heal the broken. All that was inside me that I couldn’t work out in my life, I could channel it all in my work and no one would be the wiser.”