She's taking parenting notes from Shonda Rhimes. On preparing for the arrival of her second child, she tells us she's taking advice from her boss. "I consider myself busy," Washington says, "but [Scandal creator and writer] Shonda [Rhimes] has about four of five shows, three kids... She says, 'If you feel like you have just the right amount of help, then you don’t have enough.' My therapist said this too. You need a lot of support. Not just logistically but emotionally and spiritually."
She leans in. "I feel like there is a misconception of this catty, competitiveness between women," says Washington, who recently took part in Sheryl Sandberg's campaign urging women to help each other in the workplace. "That has not been my experience, particularly in Shondaland. My mother is one of seven kids…so I have a lot of strong women in my family, and I have supportive, beautiful relationships with all of them." She's also a grad of N.Y.C's prestigious all-girls Spence School, so she's "always believed in the collective power of women." "Being the one woman in the room should not be seen as a victory," she says. "If there’s only one of us in the room, we’re still a token; we don’t actually have an empowered voice. If there’s two of us, we’re still a minority. If there’s three… then we’re allowed to have a multiplicity of opinions."
Speaking of Spence... "From the time I was 11 or 12, everyone [at school] was like, 'You are so lucky to be here.' And I was lucky, but so were they," she says. "They were lucky I was there because I gave them an expanded idea of what humanity looks like, feels like, and how it expresses itself."
She doesn't want to live in a color-blind world. "I don't want to not be African," she says. "The goal is to live in a world where my race doesn’t limit my access, where I can see myself represented in the highest level of society without any limitation."
She feels positive about social change. "I choose to feel optimistic, because I don’t think I could get out of bed if I didn’t," she shares. "The key will be when we stop allowing our otherness to separate us. Whether it’s immigrant’s rights, women’s rights, civil rights, or LGBT rights, we’re all under attack, because none of us belongs to that small group who have held power for a very long time."
She takes time for quiet reflection. In fact, that's part of the reason for her recent social media hiatus. "You arrive at a certain place of achieving and suddenly you feel like your goals are being dictated by other people," she says. "Right now, as I get ready for this second baby, it’s really about me being in touch with what I want. I didn’t get here because I was trying to be what somebody else wanted me to be… So for now, I’m leaving myself open to the adventure."
For more from Washington, including her thoughts about pregnancy and why she doesn't follow anyone on social media, pick up the September issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download Friday, August 12.