Kerry Washington: The queen of repping black girls
I was thinking about Scandal, because my brain is now programmed to anticipate Thursday nights. Officially, I am going through Scandal withdrawal. It’s bad enough when ABC randomly delays a new episode for three weeks, but now I have to go months and I’m not feeling this.
I have what Jay –Z once called “Carrie-fever,” an apt description of the way that women went gaga for HBO’s Sex and the City. My illness has re-surfaced as a stronger strain: “Kerry-fever.” And luckily, it’s contagious.
Kerry’s many mag covers
In May, Kerry graced the cover of Elle magazine. That win was quickly followed by her second Hollywood Reporter cover, on which she appears front and center, and literally a step (or two) above the all-white group of actresses. I can’t think of a better actress to sit, or er, stand in that position right now.
I say that not just because Kerry is a great actress — I call her by her first name, not out of disrespect, but because she’s “the homie” in my head — but because she’s an actress doing what she’s supposed to do when she gets a global platform and people are hanging on her every word: she reps black girls right.
The queen of repping black girls
When A-list actress Zoe Saldana gets in front of a microphone, she gets it wrong. In her recent Allure cover story, she’s huffy and defensive about the outcry over her playing Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic, declaring her black pride, then bafflingly dismissing being black as “arbitrary,” seemingly a way to downplay her ethnicity. It’s as though she doesn’t even realize her attitude is part of the outcry.
However, Kerry doesn’t budge on who and what she is or who she represents. In the Hollywood Reporter round-table, Washington and the other actresses discussed how hard it can be for women to land decent roles in Hollywood and the way looks play into it.
Washington addressed the issue of race head on, saying, “It’s a little bit different for me because I’ll audition for something and they’ll just decide that they’re not going ‘ethnic’ with a character, which I hear a lot… Whereas you could maybe lose some weight, there’s not really anything I can do, nor would I want to, about being black.”
The problematic image of Olivia Pope
This is part of the reason she’s got a legion of black girls and women — self included, of course — going gaga for her, even if the “Olivia Pope” character she plays on her show can be, admittedly, a juicily problematic representation of black women.
Let me just put it out there: I don’t like “Olivia Pope,” the lead character on Scandal, played to delightfully naughty perfection by actress Kerry Washington, as if who she is needed explaining.
But I suppose the idea as a whole of Washington playing this flawed character probably does.
I actually did like Olivia — and yes, I refer to her on a first name basis as if we’re friends, and further, as though she is real. It didn’t take much. She’s fabulously powerful and shrewd, and fancily dressed. Of course, there’s that morally questionable issue of her sleeping with another woman’s husband, but I thought she was just a woman who got caught up — haven’t we all made mistakes? (Okay, maybe not that one, but mistakes still.)
Loving Kerry — not Olivia’s drama
Eventually, I expected Olivia to do better.
I mean by the time we met in Season 1, she’d stopped dealing with the married president once. But then she fell off her wagon. And I was making allowances that I shouldn’t have for her because she has an “I got this” walk and perfectly coiffed hair. Oh, and the steamy sex scenes.
But then she got totally delusional and thought she would move into the White House and kissed the president’s best friend from college after she reconciled with her married lover and knew that the guy she was kissing was his friend, and I had to put down my “#teamOlivia” flag and close my curtains to give her the shade she deserved.
Separating the player from the game
That said, I’ll still be tuning in next season for all the juicy drama, if for no other reason than to hate on Olivia the same way my mother once did for J.R. Ewing on “Dallas.”
Because as much as I might be over Olivia Pope, I am completely head over heels for Kerry Washington.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk.