ANGELES — Kerry Washington is everywhere.
the covers of magazines; live-tweeting her hit show
"Scandal," with her fans (who call themselves
gladiators); hosting "Saturday Night Live";
and soon to be in ads for Neutrogena as the L.A.-based
beauty company’s new creative consultant.
appealing all right, the enviable combination of smart
and pretty with a can-do mentality to match that of her
character on TV, Washington crisis manager Olivia Pope.
also an actress in the modern mold who knows that being
a pro at the fashion game is a key to her success. That’s
why Washington, 36, made a conscious effort to learn her
Giambattista Valli from her Raf Simons a couple of years
ago by researching, consulting stylish pals and teaming
up with New York-based stylist Erin Walsh.
an actor, your presence on the red carpet and also in
editorial is your marketing division," Washington
said during a recent chat in L.A.
has a keen sense of occasion and appropriateness. She
spends time scanning runway photos on Style.com and
collaborating with Walsh to come up with interesting
stories to tell through her red carpet choices. For
example, when planning for the lunches and dinners
leading up this year’s Emmys, they decided on a pink
color story, which culminated in the fairy-tale Marchesa
gown Washington wore to the award ceremony. And last
year, when Washington was on the global press tour for
her film "Django Unchained," they gave
themselves the challenge of finding a dress made by a
local designer in each country that hosted a premiere.
(Washington wore Giles Deacon in London and Rochas in
try to be creative and have fun with it," said the
actress, who lives in L.A. with husband Nnamdi Asomugha,
an NFL football player. The couple is expecting their
first child next year.
the daughter of Earl, a real estate broker, and Valerie,
a professor, grew up in New York City, where she
attended the Spence School for girls and wore a uniform
every day. "My focus was on trying to be smart and
funny and interesting as opposed to trying to be the
pretty girl in the room. And I loved growing up in an
environment, both at school and at home, where your
insides are much more important than your
aesthetics," Washington said.
graduated from George Washington University in 1998 and
gave herself a year to make it in acting. Roles came
quickly, on TV, then film. Washington has appeared in
"Ray," "The Last King of Scotland"
and "Colored Girls," among other films, and
has become one of the highest paid actresses on TV with
ABC’s "Scandal," now in its third season.
interest in fashion came late, "which has been a
good thing because I see all of this as an art
form," she said. "I go to the shows in New
York or Milan, and to me it’s like going to a great
museum opening or movie; you’re seeing an artist at
work. And when I sit down with my makeup artist and
hairstylist, I know that’s a collaborative work to
create a moment of beauty out of the girl who just
rolled out of bed."
is as aspirational in beauty as she is in fashion,"
said Michelle Freyre, general manager of Neutrogena,
which is tapping Washington for input on marketing and
product development, as well as putting her face in ads.
of the things I love about Kerry is that she’s such a
curious person," said Walsh, her stylist, who also
works with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kristen Wiig. "She’s
always searching and looking for more. She was emailing
me couture looks while she was in the middle of her
while she is a good student of fashion, she’s not a
big shopper. "I tend to buy a lot of stuff at photo
shoots and fittings. It saves me time. And off the red
carpet, I’m a much more casual girl. I couldn’t live
without James Perse T-shirts, MiH Jeans and my custom
of the first designers to lend her a dress for the red
carpet was Giorgio Armani. "And I love it now
because on ‘Scandal’ I wear a ton of Armani. I love
that full circle."
Pope is a fashion plate too, with her trademark
cream-and-beige color palette, Prada bags, sharply
feminine suits and luxe loungewear. She is the image of
today’s newly stylish Washington, epitomized in the
real world by first lady Michelle Obama.
we shot the pilot, D.C. was in the midst of its
renaissance of fashion with the first lady and (former
White House social secretary) Desiree Rogers and all
these people transforming the idea of what style in
Washington is. I wanted to jump on that and advance it.
I remember saying to (costume designer) Lyn Paolo, ‘Olivia
is her own woman. She used to work for the government
but now works on her own. So she can take those
Washington rules and spin them.’"
costumes on ‘Scandal’ have been so popular that Saks
Fifth Avenue designed window displays around them this
fall. There has also been talk about Washington and
Paolo collaborating on a clothing line. "It would
have to be a partnership where I had a voice and Lyn had
a voice and we could be authentic about sharing that
aesthetic," Washington said. "I’m obsessed
with the Olivia Pope loungewear world. That’s so
special and different. That may be one impact she’s
had on me. I’ve always worn a lot of comfy cashmere,
but I was not a girl who walked around in silk pajamas
before. And now I’m like, ‘Why not?’"
follows fiction in that Washington herself is a friend
of the Obamas. She spoke at the 2012 Democratic National
Convention and serves on the President’s Committee for
the Arts and Humanities, which is co-chaired by the
first lady. "We work on a lot of initiatives, but
the one I’m most passionate about is Turnaround Arts,
which helps teachers and administrators develop arts
programs in schools," Washington explained. "A
lot of times, we think of arts as an elective, as in, if
there’s enough money around, then we will add it to
the curriculum. But schools with arts education have a
higher attendance, higher enrollment, higher parental
involvement, lower reports of behavioral issues, higher
math and reading scores."
part of the program, Washington "adopted"
Savoy Elementary School in southeast Washington, D.C.,
and paid a visit there in May with the first lady.
those who have suggested that Washington could play
Michelle Obama in a biopic, the actress demurs. "I
don’t know if I could fill those shoes. She’s pretty