Viola Davis never expected to make history at this year’s Emmy Awards, but that’s exactly what happened when she took home the trophy for Lead Actress in a Drama.

“I keep expecting to be that little girl who loses the contest,” Davis told Variety hours after her win. “It’s a mixture of disbelief and joy and acceptance. It’s just beautiful.”

Despite a certain soap opera actress’ assertion that Davis’ rise to the top has been easy, the actress explained her time in business ain’t been no crystal stair.

“You guys have to realize, I’ve been in this business 35 years, and 27 years professionally,” she told reporters backstage at the Emmys. “I’m the journeyman actor that you saw in one scene here, two scenes there. I’ve been eking out a living doing theater — Broadway, Off Broadway — film supporting roles, that I’m just excited to be a part of the conversation.”

Davis grew up in Rhode Island and her family was so poor she didn’t even meet her older sister until the actress was five-years-old because her parents couldn’t afford to raise them together. When her sister, Diane, finally arrived at the family’s rundown apartment, she asked Viola, “If this is not what you want in your life, what do you want to do?”

For years Davis didn’t know how to answer the question until she saw Willy Wonka. After the Emmy ceremony, it all made sense.

“What it meant for me to win the Emmy is I found it,” Davis explained. “It’s not just the award. It’s what it’s going to mean to young girls — young brown girls, especially. When they saw a physical manifestation of a dream, I felt like I had fulfilled a purpose.”

One brown girl especially loved the win. Davis’ daughter Genesis took to her mom’s Instagram to share her excitement over her mother’s historic win.

Hacking mommy's instagram with the help of Team JuVee!!!

A post shared by Viola Davis (@violadavis) on

How cute?

Head over to Variety to read the entire profile of Viola Davis.

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