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It’s no secret that Viola Davis came from meager beginnings. It’s also an understatement to call the brilliant actress’s upbringing meager. Davis has said it before and says it again, “I always say that I was a rung lower than poor; I was ‘po.’”

Davis opened up about poverty at the Women in the World event in Los Angeles with the event’s founder, Tina Brown (who has worked as editor-in-chief for Tatler, Vanity Fair and New Yorker and was the founder of the Daily Beast), and left the audience stunned by her admissions.

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“We’d go to bed and hear rats killing the pigeons in the roof. I mean loud, squealing noises. We would wrap our sheets around our necks at night because the rats would crawl through holes in the walls and you could hear them eating our toys at night and jumping on top of our beds,” Davis said.

The event featured talks by boss women just like her—CEOs, world leaders, artists, activists and peacemakers alike, as they offered personal stories and messages of triumph and motivation.

Davis spoke on several topics, like being sexually assaulted as a young girl by various men, being the black Meryl Streep despite never being paid like it and how poor people are invisible.

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Check out the video above for more on Davis’ thoughts and feelings on poverty in America.