Viola Davis was motivated to succeed by impoverished upbringing

Viola Davis' impoverished upbringing as a child motivated her to work hard and succeed.

The 51-year-old actress has opened up about her childhood growing up in a one-bedroom cabin on her grandmother's farm in Rhode Island that was infested with rats, and how that experience of poverty gave her the incentive to change her world for the better and value the simple things in life, such as having food on the table and a roof over her head.

Reflecting on her poor past, she said: "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.

"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."

The rodent problem in the shack was so bad that she had to go to sleep at night with a cloth around her neck so that they didn't nibble away at her skin.

She told PEOPLE magazine: "I was the kind of poor where I knew right away I had less than everyone around me.

"Our environment, our physical space reflected our income."

She added that "the boards were coming off the walls," and there was "shoddy plumbing and no phone and no food and rats and all of that. That very much was visible to me".

Viola's journey to the top of her profession was completed last weekend when she won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar for her performance in 'Fences' opposite Denzel Washington.

Speaking about her achievement backstage at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Viola broke down as she discussed her humble beginnings and how much the golden statuette meant to her.

She said: "I'm going to try not to cry now (and) be cheesy. I can't believe my life. I grew up in poverty. You know, I grew up in apartments that were condemned and rat infested, and I just always sort of wanted to be somebody. I just wanted to be good at something. And so this is sort of like the miracle of God, of dreaming big and just hoping that it sticks and it lands, and it did. Who knew? So I'm overwhelmed."