Things You Might Not Know About Kerry WashingtonPublished on January 12, 2017. Updated January 23, 2020
Kerry Washington is best recognized as Whitehouse “fixer” Olivia Pope from Shonda Rhimes popular show, Scandal. With this role, she became the first African American female lead in a network drama in nearly 40 years! But this isn’t all she’s done — some of her best work was in films like Ray, Django Unchained, The Last King of Scotland and most recently as Anita Hill in the HBO TV film, Confirmation. Here’s a look at things you likely didn’t know about Kerry Washington:
She was born in New York in 1977. She grew up in the Bronx and was an only child to her parents, Earl Washington, a real estate agent, and Valerie, a professor of early elementary education at Lehman College. She often describes her family as academic and “socially conscious, politically aware.” Washington commuted from the Bronx to the Upper East Side to go to an elite all-girls academy, the Spence School. While attending the Spence School in Manhattan, she was a member of a nine-girl Cappella singing group called Triple Trio.
9. Worked in an Educational Troupe
When Washington was a teenager, it was the height of the red ribbon era of AIDS, so to help the cause, she became a safe sex advocate. She took part in an educational troupe who performed sketches in schools and community centers. “It was some of the best actor training I’ve ever had. We would stay in character after the show, and the audience would interact with us. It taught me the importance of really understanding everything about who you’re playing, because you never knew what question was going to come,” she said.
8. She Doesn’t Drink
Unlike her famous Scandal character, Olivia Pope, who’s often seen chugging a glass of red wine or even sometimes drinking from the bottle, Washington rarely ever drinks. In an interview with Vanity Fair she said she drinks no more than two or three times a year! “I’m such a lightweight that if I drink, it takes me a couple of days to recover. So I prefer to do it on a beach and not when I have to do a three-page monologue the next day,” she said.
Today Kerry Washington is a big name in the acting industry, but she hasn’t always been! In fact in the beginning of her career she found it hard to get work because she was constantly being stereotyped. “I was often told to fix things like fix your teeth, wear your hair differently or dress differently or I was too ethnic or I didn’t speak black enough,” she said. She was even fired from two separate pilots! “Before Scandal, I was actually cast in two other pilots. Both went to series, but I was fired and recast. For both, it was because they wanted me to sound more ‘girlfriend,’ and more like ‘hood,’ more ‘urban,'” she said.
6. J.Lo Taught her how to Dance
When she was on The Tonight Show this past Spring, Washington revealed she took dance lessons from none other than Jennifer Lopez! Both celebs grew up in the Bronx in New York and apparently crossed paths early on in life. “I had this very inspiring teacher named Larry Maldonado. For anybody from my neighborhood in the Bronx, he was our role model. He had an awesome substitute teacher named Jennifer who would sometimes step in and teach but then she left to move to L.A. and be on In Living Color,” Washington said. “I learned to dance from J.Lo! So it was, like, meant to be that I would be famous. Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I’ve got — I’m Kerry from the block,” she joked.
5. Lived in India
Washington attended George Washington University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1998. She earned a major in anthropology and sociology. After she graduated college, Washington up and moved to India to study Indian theater and became a certified yoga instructor. According to Washington, the traditional form of Indian theater is extremely rigorous. “I never even got onstage. You’re not allowed to until you’ve studied for years,” she said in an interview with the New York Post.
4. She’s Extremely into Fitness
In an interview with Shape magazine, she revealed her dressing room on the set of Scandal has been turned into a full blown gym with a Pilates machine, blocks, resistance bands and a ton of free weights. Washington works out with her trainer anywhere from two to six times a week and begins every day around 6:30 a.m. with some meditation before she moves into her Pilates. “I try to stretch, pray and meditate right after I wake up. I sit, bring my vulnerability and listen to what comes up. I have to take care of myself in order to live life the way I want to,” she said.
3. Healthy Eater
Undoubtedly Kerry Washington is the definition of physically fit thanks to her strict workout regime, but she’s also an incredibly healthy eater! As a creature of habit, she starts every morning with a green smoothie made of celery, romaine and apple. She also never drinks coffee. “As far as food goes I don’t have strict rules. I don’t eat a ton of animal protein but I do eat some — I’m not a vegan or vegetarian. I try to eat organic and local and just listen to my body,” she said.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that celebrities are just like us, they’ve all experienced insecurities in their lives. Like many of us, Kerry was especially insecure about her appearance as a child and it took a long time for her to be comfortable in her own body. This is one of the reasons she turned to fitness. “I didn’t grow up thinking I was pretty; there was always a prettier girl than me. So I learned to be smart and tried to be funny and develop the inside of me, because I felt like that’s what I had,” she said.
1. Almost Quit Acting, Multiple Times
Kerry Washington has been open about her struggles with Hollywood and the acting industry and revealed that there have been several times in her career when she almost quit. One of those times was right before she landed her gig on Scandal. “There was a lot of toxicity in my life, people I needed to let go of in a personal way and in a business way. And, also, I felt like I had been living my career kind of on auto-pilot. I took a break and did a Broadway play. I went back to my roots as an artist,” she said in an interview with Oprah. “In that period, I let go of a lot of people and a lot of things. I experienced a lot of loss, professionally. I had, for example, companies that I was working with on an endorsement level that walked away from me.”