People Magazine about her growing up in poverty, saying she and her family struggled with hunger, terrible housing conditions, and racists remarks from bullies.
''I was the kind of poor where I knew right away I had less than everyone around me,'' the 51-year-old Oscars winner said. ''Our environment, our physical space reflected our income.'' At home, ''the boards were coming off the walls,'' she says, and the family endured ''shoddy plumbing and no phone and no food and rats and all of that. That very much was visible to me.''
Despite her upbringing, the Fences star says that growing up poor helped motivate her to want to give herself a better life.
''It became motivation as opposed to something else — the thing about poverty is that it starts affecting your mind and your spirit because people don’t see you,'' Viola said. ''I chose from a very young age that I didn’t want that for my life. And it very much has helped me appreciate and value the things that are in my life now because I never had it. A yard, a house, great plumbing, a full refrigerator, things that people take for granted, I don’t.''