Childhood & Early Life
Kerry Washington was born on January 31, 1977, in Bronx, New York City, to Valerie Earl. Her father was a real estate broker, while her mother worked as an education consultant and professor.
Washington had an extroverted nature ever since she was a kid, which further amplified her desire to perform in front of the camera. She expressed her wish to her parents, but they did not care about it much.
However, Kerry’s aspirations were strong, by the time she was in her teenage years. She attended the same middle school as Jennifer Lopez, and they became great friends during their school days, sharing their ambitions about making it big in show business. Kerry also learned how to dance from Lopez.
Growing up, she had another role model in Larry Maldonado, who lived in her neighborhood in Bronx and played a major role in sustaining Kerry’s dreams of becoming an actress. Kerry started participating in theater in high school and eventually, became one of the most popular kids in her school.
In order to further polish her acting skills, she joined the teen wing of ‘TADA!Youth Theater.’ She was also interested in political affairs and attended Nelson Mandela’s speech at the ‘Yankee Stadium’ upon his release from prison. She started acting while in high school, and after she graduated from school in 1994, she joined the ‘George Washington University’ for further studies.
She graduated from college with a double major in sociology and anthropology. This was a backup, in case acting did not turn out well for her. She was exceptional in academics and rejected offers from ‘Yale University’ and ‘Dartmouth College’ to concentrate on her acting career.
She took acting lessons at the ‘Michael Howard Studios’ before officially plunging into the world of Hollywood.
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Kerry Washington started her acting career in 1994, starring in commercials and music videos. Her screen debut happened with the 1994 television film ‘Magical Make-Over.’ She also appeared in the 1996 educational series ‘Standard Deviants.’
She found it very hard to strike a balance between academics and her film career, and eventually, decided to go with the former. During this time, she kept doing theater and commercials. Once she graduated from college in 1998, she started auditioning for movies.
Her launch pad on the big screen was the independent feature film ‘Our Song,’ which released in 2000. Kerry proved her talent, but the film, despite winning some awards at various film festivals, mostly remained obscure. Kerry’s confidence was rock solid after the critical success of her performance, and she landed some more roles in various other films, such as ‘Save the Last Dance’ and ‘Bad Company.’
The film ‘Bad Company’ turned out to be a major milestone in her career, as it was the first time that she got a significantly big paycheck for her role.
In 2004, Spike Lee signed her as the female lead for the film ‘She Hate Me.’ Kerry proved her talent in the first lead role of her career. Film critics thought her performance was brilliant and announced that she was an actress who was destined for greatness.
This was followed by some major roles in bigger films, such as ‘Mr. And Mrs. Smith,’ ‘I Think I Love my Wife,’ and ‘Little Man.’ Apart from films, she also featured in numerous TV series, such as ‘The Last King of Scotland,’ ‘Boston Legal,’ and ‘100 Centre Street.’ She also appeared in the music video for the song ‘I Want You’ by ‘Common.’
She narrated a documentary, titled ‘From the Mouthpiece on Back,’ in 2009 and performed in another documentary film, ‘The People Speak,’ in 2010. She also appeared in Tyler Perry’s ‘For Colored Girls,’ which dealt with the issue of racism.
However, no film of hers brought her as much recognition and praise, as Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained,’ in which she starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx. She played the role of Broomhilda, a woman entangled in the notorious American slave trade.
The film turned out to be a massive international success and the performances received immense accolades. Following this success and owing to her solid reputation among filmmakers and actors, Kerry was invited to be a member of the ‘Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ in June 2012.
In 2013, she was named the ‘Woman of the Year’ by the esteemed ‘Glamour’ magazine. She ranked second on ‘People’ magazine’s annual ‘100 Most Beautiful People’ list, in the same year.
In 2012, she began her role as the leading lady in the drama series ‘Scandal.’ She played the role of Olivia Pope, a crisis manager who was portrayed as having an on–off relationship with the US President. . This role had her reaching new heights of success, and the series enjoyed significant commercial and critical success.
Kerry’s acting skills earned her major awards and nominations, which include two ‘Golden Globe’ nominations, four ‘Primetime Emmy’ nominations, and several ‘NAACP Image’ awards and nominations. ‘Scandal’ was one of the most talked-about shows on the social media sphere.
In 2016, she played the lead role in the HBO film ‘Confirmation’ and received a nomination for the ‘Critic’s Choice Awards’ for her performance. She also lent her voice for the animated film ‘Cars 3.’