Hi, I'm RaVal Davis
Just a girl who decided to go for it!
I’ve studied acting for most of my life. First at the prestigious Duke Ellington School of The Arts in high school in Washington D.C., then at Rutgers University's esteemed Mason Gross School of The Arts—one of the top acting conservatories in the country.
Yet, I never really pursued acting after college. People always ask me what happened to your acting? Honestly, I could never answer this question. I love acting. I’d always wanted to do it. But there was something there; something telling me that I couldn’t do it.
It was during my second year of acting conservatory training during a meeting with our acting department head that we sat down to have a conversation about my “type.” It’s a conversation most actors will have. “Are you a leading woman? “Are you more Denzel or George Clooney? More Halle Berry or Julia Roberts?”
This “type” is mainly based on your appearance and somewhat your acting ability. But figuring out a type for me proved difficult. I wasn’t Angela Basset or Halle Berry —and those were really the only options for Black women at the time. I had a few other suggestions; names of female actresses of color that my department head was neither familiar with nor satisfied with.
“You’re very talented and you’re gorgeous,” she told me. “You have beautiful cheekbones. I wish I could see them more. I suggest you drop 25 pounds, then lets have this conversation again.”
Those words stung in my ear. 25 pounds? She basically wanted me to become another person. After all I was only 145 pounds at the time. Being a Black actress was already daunting, but now I’m too fat too? I was 19 years old and her approval meant everything. But here she was telling me how there was no place for me in this industry unless I changed myself. And everything seemed to prove that she was right. Aside from maybe Whoopi Goldberg and Queen Latifah it was pretty hopeless out there.
I was heartbroken and overwhelmed but still I tried. I joined Weight Watchers at the suggestion of my college roommate. I worked out almost everyday and you know what? I got snatched. I was slimmer than I’d ever been, but my arms just never seemed to shrink and my booty and hips—hopeless. I just didn’t look like the other girls in my class. I couldn’t give her what she wanted.
Add to that, something had switched in my mind. I couldn’t picture myself on stage excepting my Oscar anymore. My dream started to get smaller and smaller. ‘Well maybe I won't be a leading woman, but I could land a sitcom. Maybe I can be the slightly overweight friend.” These are things I really thought to myself.
When I look back I hate that I let this woman who knew nothing about me crush my dreams. After that moment with my teacher I subconsciously decided that I could never become who I wanted to be. I wasn’t the right “type.” There was no space for me in this industry, so I became a writer, and later, a music industry executive.
I achieved a lot of success working for major artist like CeeLo Green, Tamar Braxton, Prince and more. But deep down, I knew this wasn’t my path. I could only go so far because that wasn’t why God put me on the planet.
Then about 10 years after acting school, Orange Is the New Black comes along. It literally shattered every limit I put on myself. There, on my screen, was Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Adrienne C. Moore, Dascha Polanco, Laverne Cox, and so many more—all defying the “types.” These weren’t Hollywood’s typical classic beauties. They were brown and curvaceous. And yet they were the perfect “type."
I was dreaming and hoping again, if only just a little about my first love: acting. Maybe I can do this. Maybe there is a space for me—a brown girl with a whole lot of body.
Those ladies inspired me to want to embrace my body and to also share the message and empower women to love their bodies no matter what industry their in. It's okay to be a size 10 and above. In fact, it’s quite fabulous.
Today I am a full time working actress. I recently landed two national comercials, 2 plays and a film, plus countless local commercials all in the first 7 months of this career. God is awesome! He will always reward a leap of faith.