Kerry Washington covers Marie Claire: ‘I didn’t grow up thinking I was pretty’


Kerry Washington covers the new issue of Marie Claire. It’s a decent but uneventful shoot, but I guess it’s worth noting that Marie Claire – unlike InStyle a few months ago – did not Photoshop Kerry into oblivion. As for the interview… it was conducted by Lena Dunham. Ugh. Lena recently filmed a guest appearance on Scandal, and she and Kerry are pretty supportive of each other. I like that this generation of actresses seems to be supportive of each other, but I feel like Lena is just as much of a “friend collector” as Taylor Swift. Lena is looking to make friendships with women who will further legitimize her as “the voice of a generation.” You can read some highlights here and here are some excerpts:

Kerry Washington on privacy: “Earlier in my career I was much more super-sharey. There were moments when I wanted to process things that were happening to me more privately, and I didn’t have the space to do it, because once you let people in, they’re in and you don’t get to say, ‘Oh, I want this for myself.'”

On fashion: “I just put myself in a boot camp of figuring it out—and realized that I really loved it. I guess because I came to it later in life, I realized, ‘Oh, going to a fashion show is like going to the opening of Degas at the Met or going to see Swan Lake.'”

On growing up: “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.”

On family: “I just want [daughter Isabelle] to know that she’s heard. Really heard, because I feel like that is what we all really want. When I think about any of the missteps in my life that I’ve made, all of which I’m grateful for, it’s because I just so wanted to be truly seen and heard for who I am and was afraid I wasn’t or wouldn’t be. I see you, I hear you, I’m with you as you are.”

[From Marie Claire]

I understand what Kerry says about handling her private business with more discretion. It’s pretty true – you’d be hard-pressed to find an actress so active on social media and engaged with fans who also manages to be an utter mystery. We know next to nothing about her marriage or her daughter. We know some of her Hollywood friends, but even then… we don’t know who Kerry really spends time with. Is that a good way to operate in today’s celebrity world? I think it is, although it makes for some somewhat boring interviews.

Incidentally, Kerry was just cast as Anita Hill in HBO’s TV movie, Confirmation, about Clarence Thomas’ Senate confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court. Kerry will be executive producing the film too. Hill made the media rounds a few years ago when she was promoting a documentary about her life, her work and her moment of infamy. I watched several of her interviews and she came across so, so well. I think Kerry is sort of perfect casting. But who will play Justice Thomas?!


Photos courtesy of Tesh/Marie Claire.

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34 Responses to “Kerry Washington covers Marie Claire: ‘I didn’t grow up thinking I was pretty’”

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  1. Mintessence (the original Minty) says:

    Call me cynical, but don’t celebs all say this? I wasn’t pretty/I was too tall/boys didn’t like me… It’s likely the experience for some, but they also say this to appear more relatable to us “commoners” – a PR tactic. Just once it would actually be refreshing to hear a model or actress candidly say, “Why yes, I was really popular in high school. I sat at the cool kids table. I was lucky because I never went through an awkward period.”

    • MelissaManifesto says:

      Then if they do they get labelled as being arrogant, high-handed, or worse a wh@#re. Maybe it’s easier to take the safer I wasn’t pretty approach.

      • Mintessence (the original Minty) says:

        True. They can’t win either way. I guess I’m tired of the PR manipulation. Oftentimes it’s better to say nothing and cultivate a little mystery, but these days they have to regularly put themselves out there in the media if they want to keep working.

    • annaloo. says:

      I’m a true Kerry fan. I’ve met her manager and her HMU team many times – and her only once where she told me “don’t believe everything you hear”. They’re tight knit and a long time in with her.

      I also would believe that she didn’t grow up thinking she was pretty — and that’s a blessing for any girl out there to grow up so. It forces you to develop other character traits about you that don’t fade away, as beauty inevitably will do. As for the racial angle of it, I think many of the posters sharing their experiences here understand that special sort of rejection when you walked through the doll aisle or looked at magazine racks or beer ads during superbowls for the “hottest chick” and didn’t see your look represented. Maybe she meant this, maybe not…I wouldn’t blame Kerry for not saying it straight out bc she is trying to appeal to a mass market and race-speak of any type can be really dividing to some people. However, I am sure that as a woman of color, she probably knows exactly those insecurities some of the commenters here (that come from all over) have shared.

    • Anna says:

      I’m pretty sure her saying she didn’t see herself as pretty has to do with anti-blackness and lack of representation in the media.

  2. krastins says:

    Why do they all say this? I get they’re trying to be relatable but seriously…#humblebrag

    • Kiddo says:

      Yeah, she’s looks gorgeous, but #notreallybuyingshedidn’tknowshewaspretty

    • EC says:

      Right? Don’t people’s parents tell them they are pretty? Like my parents told me I was pretty so much I got sick of hearing it, but I guess I believed them. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have good days and less good days, but overall, I have a healthy amount of confidence and I think I owe that to my parents. I don’t think it’s the most ridiculous thing to say you like the way you look, or you grew up thinking you looked pretty. Because really, this is all you have, for your life. Why spend a ton of time fighting it?

      But she is right, there is ALWAYS someone prettier than you are. That is just life. It’s not a bad thing.

      • Thunderthighs says:

        I think it depends on who you grew up with. My parents had 7 other children to deal with… Lol. There was hardly any time to talk to them let alone have them affirming how beautiful each and every one of them was. Then as I grew up, my mother was the very one who caused my self esteem issues always comparing my fat self (her words) with my skinnier sisters, always policing my food, always watching my portions, making snide comments about how I should not eat any meat/beef and instead stick to vegetables… I don’t eat red meat of any kind to this day. She once asked me how I expected to get myself a husband with all the fat I was lugging around. I sometimes wonder if that has something to do with the major depression I struggle with everyday. I’m now 31 and I’ve never seriously dated because I have never believed I can be good enough for someone to want to be with me. So yeah… Not all parents affirm their children. In fact, some of them damage their children instead.

      • EC says:

        @ thunderthighs – I wrote a quick response to this without thinking through other people’s experiences, and reading through this thread has been enlightening to say the least. I’m so sorry for the relationship you had/have with your mother – it sounds incredibly damaging and unhealthy. Friends are the family that you are able to choose (I think I got that from sex and the city, how trite), and I hope you surround yourself with supportive friends who become your family. I often forget how incredibly lucky I am -sending you big hugs. xx

      • lucy2 says:

        Definitely depends on your situation growing up. Sadly there are a lot of parents who don’t express that to their kids, or in fact do the opposite. And even if the parents are supportive, most kids look for acceptance and approval from their peers anyway, and that rarely is an easy road.

    • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

      It depends on who you grew up around, and who your model of beauty was. I’m willing to give Kerry the benefit of the doubt, because she’s black. I’m black, and I went to school/live in a place where 90% of the people all look the same. Blonde, straight hair, blue/brown eyes, tall, and thin. All of the popular girls in HS were the same–athletic, cheerleaders, skinny, etc. I think one girl was part Native American, and was a little tan, but other than that, they all fit the formula. I do not fit in that norm.

      And even though I look a lot like my mom, and consider her to be very beautiful, I’ve never seen myself as beautiful or attractive–not ugly, but nothing to give a second look. And for someone like Kerry, who is medium dark skinned, all it takes is to be the only one (I was the only black girl in HS; now my little sister is the only one–although we’re both light skinned/pale), and add up all the “hair problems”……it’s not unbelievable.

      • Miran says:

        Agreed. When I first came to the US I lived in a really small town and I was one of the only Asians in my classes and I never thought I was attractive because I didn’t fit the mold. Not to mention the rude things kids say.

      • Kiddo says:

        “I didn’t grow up thinking I was pretty; there was always a prettier girl than me”. …

        That sums up EVERYONE. I still think she is saying this, as someone above mentioned, to appear relatable or sympathetic. She is pretty by any standard, even if she had insecurities. KWIM? If she had mentioned that there was an issue with fitting into a racial construct of beauty, then I would say yes.

      • QQ says:

        I agree Miran, when you aren’t a “mirror” of what’s going on around you and you are young that is very hard, I had a similar experience

      • Lauren says:

        Agree with you completely Virgilia. Growing up I was also the only black girl aside from maybe two others and it is hard to ever think of yourself as pretty especially when the standard of beauty is eurocentric. If you are considered pretty and it is always just pretty for a black gir whatever that means . From what I remember it was you were pretty essentially only if you had a white girl dipped in chocolate as in you have what is considered white features and good hair that was my experience and many of my black girl friends and siblings experienced. And families are always so encouraging either. I had family members who eternalized this white standard of beauty and made you feel like crap for having nappy hair etc. So I could definitely believe it of any black actress who would say they also didn’t feel beautiful growing up.

      • Marty says:

        @VC- I’m right there with you. I’m black/Mexican and had the same issues growing up. I was told I was pretty in my circle of family, but it never extended beyond that so I thought maybe I really wasn’t. It wasn’t until I got older an realized that the blueprint of beauty, the one you described above, isn’t the only one out there. I think the unfortunate truth is that a lot of WoC feel this way.

      • Miran says:

        @QQ- I distinctly remember being told I looked like a pug with my ‘flat face’ ad someone suggested a nose job to bring the profile out more.

      • Sonya says:

        I agree. It’s all in your frame of reference. I am WHITE, as in translucent, my mom used to say I was covered in maps because you can see my veins. My family is all dark, deep caramel and olive. Dark, dark straight hair – I had blonde curls. Dark skin that turned golden in the sun – I was lobster red and had to wear long sleeves and pants outdoors. All of the Native American genes were lost on me. I hated it. I felt like an outsider and like a freak. I was in high school when a middle eastern boy said something about his older sister (who was absolutely stunning) being allowed to go to college because no one would marry her anyway. I asked why and he said “she is too dark, she isn’t pretty like you.” He was lighter than his sister and he said “I used to wish we could change places because it would be okay for me to be dark, I’m a man.” I almost fell over. I think it was the first time I realized that we all hold something different up and call it beautiful. Most of us naturally hold up what we are not, especially adolescent girls. If you have straight hair you want curls, if you have curly hair you kill yourself straightening it… and so on. When you factor in the common perception of beauty in America being white it’s even worse for ethnic children, though I myself wanted to look more like my family than Hollywood. I pray everyday my children see their beauty when they look in the mirror.
        As far as commentary on her face and if she has had work, I think we live in a time of contrasting and photoshop. Personally in these pictures I think the contrasting is a little too heightened. If you think face changes have to be surgical I implore you to go on YouTube and watch some makeup videos about contrast. It’s crazy what shading and highlighting can do.

      • GByeGirl says:

        I totally agree. I’m a white girl and spent my elementary school years in a very diverse neighborhood. My middle and high school years were spent in a mostly white community. My diverse neighborhood friends and I considered attractive people of all races to be simply attractive. When I moved, I’d hear people say things like, “Halle Berry is pretty for a black girl.”

        I’m not sure what sort of environment Kerry grew up in, but I can believe that she may have felt that way and it’s not necessarily a humble-brag.

    • oneshot says:

      Is it so hard to believe that a young black woman growing up in a country with very little representation of people like her as part of the beauty standard might, as a young girl, believe that she isn’t really pretty?

      I had the exact same experience. And frankly, girls start getting brainwashed with the message that being ‘pretty’ is the most important thing at such a young age, it’s practically revolutionary to realise there are other things to be besides pretty, or that you can opt out of chasing the beauty ideal all the time and focus on developing other parts of yourself.

  3. bammer says:

    I’m happy for Kerry’s success but there seems to be some kind of sadness there. I don’t really understand the hyper paranoia about her marriage. Like, it’s okay to say you’re married, walk a carpet and still not broadcast all the details. Something seems off with that.

    The Anita Hill movie could be fantastic. I think she’ll do a great job.

    Lena Dunham? Really? She makes me want to vomit.

  4. Happy21 says:

    I know I’m alone here but she irritates me. I can’t stand to hear her talk. The only thing I saw her act in was Django (I think that was her) and she was okay maybe because she was acting but when I see her at awards shows or interviews. I just can’t stand her enunciation of everything. She sounds as educated as she is but something about her just bugs me!

  5. Lucy2 says:

    I think she’s smart to keep the focus on her professional life snd keep her personal life private.
    I get the friend collector thing from Lena too.

  6. Miran says:

    At first glance I was like ‘when did Halle Berry get hair extensions?’

  7. InvaderTak says:

    Alright. I’ll be the jerk. Those lips are not pretty. She’s into Nicole Kidman territory with the implants.

    • Renee says:

      I don’t know if se has had lip implants but he’s definitely had her nose done. If you look at pictures of her from few years ago, when she was with her old fiance she looks VERY different.

      • irma says:

        thank you! I am surprised-but not really bc of the pc factor or bias towards KW in general on this site-that this wasn’t mentioned in the OP or other comments thus far. For awhile now, her lips have been really strange-injections or implants I don’t know, but I am distracted when I see her face lately. And as you said, it wasn’t always like this. I have seen earlier pics, and she looks artificial in the face now. I don’t think she needed this-she was absolutely stunning before. She’s still lovely but on the edge of muppet or alien IMO.

    • Q says:

      I disagree, they’re so gorgeous. Go on Google Images and type in Kerry Washington at 17 and you’ll see they’ve always looked like that. But hate away.

      • irma says:

        It’s not hate it’s an observation. lol. All celebs are subject to physical observation and subsequent comments on this blog, in my years of reading it. KW is a great actress and seems like a lovely down to earth person. She was stunning before and did not need lip or face injections, but it appears she is getting them, to some of us looking at her pics in recent months/years.

      • Wren33 says:

        Yeah, she looks the same to me.

    • prettylights says:

      Her lips look pretty much the same as they did in “Save the Last Dance” (that movie came out when I was in high school). I would say that she lost a lot of weight, making her cheek bones a lot more pronounced, or else maybe did something to them. Her nose also looks a lot more refined. But unless she started doing her lips way back then I think they’re real.

      Either way she’s gorgeous by any standards.

    • CoolWhipLite says:

      Her lips bug me…but, based on old photos, they’ve always been like that. I don’t know exactly what it is about them that irks me….and it bothers me that I can’t define it.