‘I spent the first 20 years of my life trying to be somebody else’: Kerry Washington talks Hollywood beauty standards and Photoshop fails
Published 12/04/2016 | 14:44
Actress Kerry Washington has seen her face edited beyond recognition on the covers of a number of magazines, and has spoken out about the pressure to conform to Hollywood beauty standards.
Last week, she took to Instagram to respond to a disastrously Photoshopped image on the cover of Adweek, saying she was "taken aback" and that "it felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror".
During an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday, the Scandal star revealed that she struggled for many years to feel comfortable in her own skin.
She reflected on her poor body image during adolescence, and how colourism affected her sense of self, as she constantly compared herself to her lighter-skinned friends and felt she didn't measure up.
“Another young woman I grew up with was much fairer-skinned than I was, with much straighter hair, and that meant that she was prettier.
“I think part of that was because how that impact sort of rippled out with other people culturally were the images I was getting,” she told Winfrey.
"Most of the beginning of my life I was fighting the idea that I was not enough. That I had to be fixed."
Now 39 and leading one of America’s top drama series, Washington is finally happy with how she looks, and has no time for unrealistic beauty standards.
“Honestly I’ve never had this thought before sitting here with you — but I think I spent the first 20 years of my life trying to be somebody else, so I just don’t have the energy at this point,” she said.
Washington also looked back on the rough patches during her early years in the industry.
“In the beginning of my career, 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.
“Whatever it was. These were the reasons why I wasn’t making it in the beginning of my career,” she said.
Although Olivia Pope is now one of television’s most intriguing and popular characters, Washington wasn’t so lucky earlier in her career, and recalled being losing out on promising roles because the studio didn’t like her look.
“Before I did Scandal, I did two other pilots for TV shows. Both of them got picked up, but I was fired,” she said, noting that she was told: “We love the show but she’s gotta go.”
“I think (it was) because I’ve always been me. I didn’t really conform. I didn’t really change those things that people told me I had to change.”
Luckily, Shonda Rhimes recognised her beauty and offered her the role that would change her life - and now, it's handled.