"I'm unapologetic for who I am, where I'm from, and what I believe."

By Kerry Washington, as told to Laura Brown
Aug 06, 2019 @ 8:00 am
Kerry Washington in Giambattista Valli dress. Dolce & Gabbana earrings worn as hair accessories. Irene Neuwirth ring. Photo by Camilla Armbrust/Jones Management

I’ve been on the cover of InStyle twice. The first time was in 2015, after the birth of my first child, Isabelle. I remember nursing at the photo shoot, so I would take breaks to breastfeed or to pump. Having this life when this little tiny human being needed me for everything was crazy. I was really flying by the seat of my pants at the time, relying on friends who were working moms. Leaning into the support of other women was vital to me in that window. It was all new territory.

I’m still very much a student in different parts of my life — parenting, acting, producing. Fashion too. I think having a little girl who’s so drawn to pink and sparkle has sort of opened me up to my inner pink and sparkle, but early on in my career I wasn’t really all that into it. I remember calling Tracee Ellis Ross and saying, “Help! I know that you were born into a glorious walk-in closet. How do I do this?”

I really don’t know if I would be willing to walk this path anymore if I weren’t able to collaborate professionally with women I adore, like Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Alba, and Eva Longoria. I think our partnership allows for a different kind of leadership and authenticity. When we started Time’s Up, that was a big moment of taking stock of our shared power. So many of us had been siphoned into separate corners. We had been told stories about each other: “That one’s difficult,” and “That one’s a diva.” When we came together as a community, we were really able to harness our power through intimacy and honesty and sharing and just being in the goodness of womanhood together. We’re just a bunch of chicks trying to do our job. And wanting to do it well.

VIDEO: Kerry Washington Looks Back at Her InStyle Covers

When I was younger I always thought I had to be willing to say no to things in order to create the career I wanted and was proud of. I’d say, “No, I’m not going to do that movie. I’m going to work more shifts in the restaurant instead.” There’s a level of power in making those choices. But now that I understand what my priorities are — my family and my health and wellness and sanity — I try to look at my week holistically and think about how I can be responsible in each of the different roles I play in my life: mother, actor, director, activist. A day well spent is one where I’ve created goodness in some way and surrendered ego to be part of something, whether it’s a play, a scene, a family dinner, a date night, or a school field trip. Something where I feel like I’ve let go of myself in order to be part of something greater or more important than me.

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I’ve learned to not apologize for things that don’t require an apology, like being a woman or a person of color. I’m unapologetic for who I am, where I’m from, and what I believe. Now I just stand in the truth of me and live. I’ve started to realize that truth is one of the most important frameworks in my life. It’s something I’m ambitious for — in my work as an actor, in my home, in our larger systems of power. I’m also ambitious for equity, humanity, and love.

Optimism is vital to me. I’d rather be the person who gets out of bed and expects good than the person who gets out of bed and expects bad. I find that when I put my mind-set in the perspective that good things are coming, then they tend to come.

If I could go back in time to give myself one piece of advice at my first InStyle cover shoot, I would tell myself to enjoy it. Enjoy this ride you’re on — and hold on tight. The waters are not going to be this rough for much longer.

How I’d describe myself in three words:
In 2015 — Curious, Hopeful, Humbled
Today — Dedicated, Introspective, Private

Photographed by Camilla Armbrust on June 9 in Los Angeles. Styling: Rebecca Ramsey. Hair: Kim Kimble for Six K. Makeup: Allan Avendaño for Starworks Artists. Manicure: Kim Truong for Star Touch Agency. Production: Kelsey Stevens Productions. Location: Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles.

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