Her voice shudders when she ponders on her father, who died in 2006 and who she says would have thought
“this is pretty fantastic.” Davis also reflected, somberly, on her upbringing in Central Falls, R.I. She has only one photo of herself as a child in kindergarten, with an expression that’s not quite a smile and not quite a frown and instead, “just something,” she said. “But every time I look at the little girl, I always thought, ‘Oh, that’s a cute outfit but she was always hungry, she was always shy, she was always kind of in the background, but inside she had big dreams bursting,’” she said.
Davis has spoken before about growing up in an poverty-stricken family in Rhode Island and the challenge’s she faced as a child who wasn’t sure where to get her next meal. “Although my childhood was filled with many happy memories, it was also spent in abject poverty,” she said during an emotional speech in 2014 at Variety’s Women of Power event, where she was also honored. “I did everything to get food,” she continued, adding that she sometimes stole food and jumped into garbage bins to find something to eat. “[I] befriended people in the neighborhood, who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food, and I sacrificed a childhood for food and grew up in immense shame,” she said at the time.
Davis then reflected on her bringing up in Central Falls, R.I., saying,
“The only picture I have of myself as a kid in kindergarten is with a little … sucker and an expression that’s not really a smile, not really a frown, just something. But every time I look at the little girl, I always thought, ‘Oh, that’s a cute outfit but she was always hungry, she was always shy, she was always kind of in the background, but inside she had big dreams bursting.’”
To say that Davis’ life has taken a striking turn from her childhood is definitely an understatement. That’s perhaps, why, during the Hall of Fame ceremony on Thursday, Davis found herself thinking of the story of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Thinking of herself as a young girl with “big dreams bursting,” she added: “The only thing I could think about is that saying, ‘What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly.” She paused, then added, “I cannot believe my life right now.”