Kerry Washington: Managing the Crisis of Inequality
By Marcy Driehaus
Though she plays a character on TV who manages outrageous crises for the rich and powerful, in real life Kerry Washington occupies her time by being a hardworking and elegant woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and serve as a role model for girls and women everywhere.
The stages of New York City were destined to have a new performer the day Kerry Washington was born on January 31, 1977 in the South Bronx. Washington grew up in a family whose foundation was based on the value of education and the importance of pursuing your dreams. Washington split her time as a kid between performing in her school’s productions and being active in a group that conquered social issues. The budding activist’s diverse passions were a solid indication to her potential as a future leader.
With a degree in performance studies from George Washington University in one hand, and a fistful of determination in the other, Kerry Washington was ready to take on the world. After landing her first major role in the film Our Song in 2000, Washington’s career was a whirlwind of complex roles and infinite praise. By embodying numerous pivotal characters throughout the years, Washington managed to make her way into the hearts of many by touching people with her compelling portrayals.
More recently, Washington has been tackling the role of Olivia Pope in Shonda Rhimes’s hit show Scandal. By playing this role, Washington is able to exemplify the strength and determination of hardworking woman while simultaneously exposing her vulnerabilities. Kerry Washington’s ability to seize the character of Olivia Pope and morph her into someone who can serve as a source of hope and inspiration reflects just what an impactful person she is. Being the first African American woman since 1974 to serve as the title character in a primetime TV show, Washington takes it upon herself to do the part justice and change the way the world perceives what a hero is. In an interview with feministing.com, she addresses this concept by stating that, “I think it’s really about being more inclusive about how we see our heroes. In order for our protagonists to represent a range of identities–be it gender, race, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation–we just have to be willing for our heroes to come in many forms.” With assertions such as these, Washington effectively exposes the hard hitting issues within entertainment world and stirs within others a longing for change.
Aside from her successful career as an actress, Washington is a regular political activist and women’s rights advocate. Washington’s efforts while serving on the board of Voices of a People’s History are keeping art alive while also educating many. Aside from that, she is also a member of the Creative Coalition and is actively involved with the V-Day organization, an organization whose mission is to end violence against women. In addition to championing important causes through her involvement with these organizations, Washington has also been known to stand on her own and advocate for women in the political realm as well. While speaking at the DNC in 2012, her demand for equality rang loud and clear when she emphasized that, “For me, like a lot of American women, this election is a very personal one, because the stakes are higher than ever before. This election will decide the fate of the rights our mothers and grandmothers fought for, rights we’ve fought for—not just our right to choose, but our ability to get an affordable education, equal pay for equal work, access to quality health care and a lot more.” Washington’s strides toward equality is the glimmer of hope that all women, especially women of color, need at this time in America.
When it comes to encompassing dignity, strength, talent, and grace, Kerry Washington does the job. If we all followed her example, the world might be a brighter place to live. You are in charge of your own life and if you don’t like something, or rather, if you want to change something, then go out and do it. As Kerry Washington herself once said, “Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.”