09/05/2013 at 09:00 AM EDT
Viola Davis's husband is a pretty special guy. In fact, says the actress, he was heaven sent.
The Oscar nominee for The Help
tells October's Essence
, on newsstands Friday, that she prayed for a certain type of man to come into her life – and then he did.
"I asked for a husband who was emotionally available, someone who was older, someone who maybe had a family before," she says. "I like older men. Someone from the South. Someone who loves God more than he loves himself."
And then, voila!
"I met my husband three and a half weeks later, an ex-football player from Austin, Texas," says Davis, 48. "On one our first dates, he took me to church."
Davis and actor Julius Tennon were married in 2003. They adopted a daughter,
Genesis, in 2011.
Davis has spoken before about how her husband has encouraged her not to wear her wigs
outside her professional life – and says now that taking off the wig is a powerful act.
"I had to defend myself as an artist, but I found myself defending myself as a dark-skinned black woman in front of people who did not know my life," she says. "I took my wig off because I no longer wanted to apologize for who I am."