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In an industry in which many black women still struggle for steady work, the logic would suggest that Washington would want to make herself more consumable, not less.Yet Washington’s managed to become more visible while firmly closing the door on her personal life.And yet, as the Scandal freight train gained steam, Washington seemed to be doing all the things that as a star on the rise.She appeared on the August 2013 cover of Vanity Fair in a bathing suit; she became an active Twitter user; she started appearing on “Best Dressed” lists.Plus she’d checked all the limited boxes then currently available to a black woman in Hollywood: supporting role in a comic book franchise, Oscar bait, Spike Lee movie, Tyler Perry movie, hip-hop object of affection.But it wasn’t enough, or wasn’t interesting enough, to bolster her status to the sweet spot on the fame spectrum, still dominated by the (white) likes of Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway, and Kristen Stewart, whose personal lives were imbued with lingering intrigue and scandal.She attended Spence, the upper-crust Manhattan private school, on scholarship.At school, she crossed paths with Gwyneth Paltrow; back home in the Bronx, she took dance lessons from the same man who molded Jennifer Lopez.
Who needs paparazzi photos of Washington when you watch GIFs of her making out with Fitz on Tumblr?
There are plenty of celebrities who have sheltered their private lives, but that requires a separate primary source of fame: Meryl Streep, Jessica Chastain, and Cate Blanchett are such superlative actors that they’ve never needed to talk about their private lives. Which isn’t to degrade and devalue, say, the Kardashians, who smartly recognized that their font of interestingness is rooted in the minutiae of their “private” public lives.
Meryl and Kim reside on opposite ends of the celebrity spectrum: on one side, a fame rooted wholly in performance of someone else; on the other, the performance of self.
Yet Washington doesn’t shy from conceiving herself that way.
In addition to Red Carpet Kerry, and Olivia Pope Kerry, there’s also “hip-hop Kerry and Kerry from the Bronx,” which, as she told Ad Week, “was a part of my brand that I wasn’t doing a good enough job getting out there.” Thus: the Apple Music commercial with Mary J. Henson.“There aren’t a lot of products and a product space that live in that part of my identity that I would necessarily want to partner with,” Washington said, referring to “hip-hop Kerry.” But “Apple Music was a no-brainer.” Put differently, Washington — who has partnered with Neutrogena, OPI Nail Polish, The Limited, and Movado Watches — is eager to incorporate a certain level of “Bronx” into her brand, but only if processed through the bourgeois filter of Apple.