Kerry Washington is on a hell of a roll. The Bronx-native sits on the Obama Administration’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, she rocked the box office in the Oscar-nominated film Django Unchained, she rules the small screen in the ABC drama Scandal, scored an Emmy nomination, and she secretly tied the knot with San Francisco 49ers cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. To say she’s having a great year would be an understatement.
While we’ve always known Kerry was fly, the mainstream media is finally taking notice. Earlier this year she landed the coveted cover of Vanity Fair, and now Glamour is getting on board.
Washington graces Glamour’s October issue and talks fashion, Scandal, and why she stays mum about her personal life. Here’s a hint: she just feels more comfortable keeping her private business private.
Check out an excerpt from the issue which will hit newsstands September 10th.
Cindi Leive: You’re so close to your parents. Were they OK with your career choice?
Kerry Washington: When I said that this is what I wanted to do, my mother literally cried. She didn’t want me to experience all that rejection. They both would have preferred me to have been a lawyer.… [After college] I gave myself a year to make it in acting and was living in my parents’ house teaching beginner’s yoga when I got my first part, in Our Song. Then I got Save the Last Dance.… Now they’re really behind me. And I’m always working. My cousins call me the longshoreman of actors.
CL: [Laughs.] I want to ask about fashion too. At what point did it start to be fun, or is it still kind of something you do because it’s part of the job?
KW: It started out as, like, Good-Student Kerry. OK, I’m going to admit this: There were a couple of actresses whom I felt were having the upper hand careerwise—because they knew how to work that red carpet. I was like, “I’m missing a really important tool. If I am the CEO of the Kerry Washington Corporation, my marketing department is really lax.” So I sort of developed a new character: Red-Carpet Kerry.
CL: I love that.
KW: And I researched her like any other character. I actually called Tracee Ellis Ross [the actress and Diana Ross’s daughter], who’s a good friend, and literally asked, “How do you pronounce Hermès?” Red-Carpet Kerry needed to know.
CL: The longshoreman kicked in.
KW: Exactly. The professor’s daughter kicked in. I was doing library hours on fashion. And then it happened—I was in love.
CL: And the fashion on Scandal is a whole other story. All that white! Did that come from you?
KW: From me and the costume designer Lyn Paolo. And the pants—that Olivia wears pants—that was mine, because I really wanted her to wear the pants in that relationship.
CL: I’ve heard that people have been walking into Prada and asking for the Olivia Pope purse.
KW: And Movado for the Olivia Pope watch. My mother was like, “I think I want an Olivia Pope watch for Mother’s Day.”
CL: Your mom is shopping off Scandal? I think your parents are officially OK with your job. So what’s in the Prada bag?
KW: [Laughs.] Usually folders, pens, the phone on the show, and often a bottle of water to add a nice weight to the bag. And some panties in one episode!
CL: I love the whole idea of “gladiators” [Olivia’s term for her employees and, now, what fans of the show call themselves.] So who are your gladiators?
KW: My closest girlfriends from college, and I’m really close to the girls on the show. It’s a sisterhood.… That’s the big thing that really differentiates me from Olivia: She compartmentalizes her relationships. I really try to let my friends into all of my life. They know that Red-Carpet Kerry is a version of Kerry, and they know that DNC Speaker Kerry is me.
CL: OK, so relationships. In interview after interview, you always use the same phrase: “I don’t talk about my personal life.” I’m curious about the discipline that it requires to be so tight-lipped.
KW: I learned through experience that it doesn’t work for me to talk about my personal life. I’ve had earlier times in my career when I did talk about it. I was on the cover of a bridal magazine [InStyle Weddings, in 2005, when Washington was engaged to actor David Moscow]. But I couldn’t just turn around and say, “I only want to talk about the good stuff, but not the bad stuff.” So I just thought, “OK, no more.”
CL: You even managed to get married in June without anyone knowing.
KW: Absolutely! I’m walking around in the world with my ring. And when people say congratulations, I say thank you. But I’m going to continue to not talk about it and just let it unfold.
CL: It must have been satisfying to pull off a wedding with no press around.
KW: [Laughs.] I don’t want to sound smug about it…but the point is to do what’s best for me. I have girlfriends in this business who talk about their personal lives, and it works for them, and I love it. But not for me.
*Photos via Glamour magazine. Head over to their site to view more.