When you watch Kerry Washington handle her shit on Scandal gladiator-style, powerful, confident, and brilliant are exactly the words that come to mind. Fitting then, that on the heels of the season finale, the actress and Neutrogena spokesperson would drop a new Essential Eye Palette—and Essential Cheek Palette—featuring shades with the same names. They’re “colors that a lot of people can use in a lot of different ways, and, of course, they’re meant to have a double meaning,” she says. Practical and powerful—classic Olivia Pope right there.
We caught up with the Scandal star to play a lightning round of 20-ish questions. Here’s what she had to say about beauty perceptions in Hollywood, nudes for every skin tone, and more.
Glamour: What’s one beauty rule you think is BS?
Kerry Washington: I think the idea that you are not enough is bullshit. Anytime the cosmetics industry traffics in the belief that you have to buy a product in order to be who you’re supposed to be is a false idea. We’re beautiful as we are—products exist to enhance and amplify our beauty. I want women to feel beautiful in all their incarnations and variations, and just as great when they wash their face, as they do when they put makeup on.
Glamour: So then what’s the one beauty rule you swear by?
KW: Hydration, hydration, hydration. I believe drinking a ton of water is vital to health and wellness. It’s so important to have hydration on the inside, but also finding products that can really lock in moisture on the outside. It’s all about working internally and externally toward the same goal.
Glamour: Fill in the blank: “I wouldn’t have survived before ____ was invented.”
KW: I’m a survivor. I always find a way.
Glamour: You’ve talked about your struggle with eczema. What are your nonnegotiable skin care products for keeping it in check?
KW: Daily fish oil supplements, because omega fatty acids work. And I’d never, ever skip moisturizer—no way—it’s too critical. I’m a little bit obsessed with Neutrogena Norwegian Hand Cream. It actually makes my manicure last an extra week. And then hyaluronic acid for my face is everything. I love Neutrogena’s new serum. And there’s a new Hydroboost gel with SPF in it, which is great, especially during spring and summer.
Glamour: In the fashion and beauty world, the idea of neutrals can sometimes have an underlying implication of “light skin tones.” What did you have in mind as you were curating your new nude eye palette?
KW: It was about finding colors that a lot of people can use in a lot of different ways. To me, you can open the palette, and no matter where you are, what you’re doing, or where you’re going, you can give yourself a pop of glam and freshness—that added sense of easy beauty. That’s why the kit is essential; the shadows represent a wide range of colors that can really enhance and flatter all skin tones.
Glamour: What’s your favorite way to use them?
KW: Powerful is this soft, chocolaty shadow that’s a great day to evening transition color. For me, combining Powerful and Flirty [a cool taupe] is a no-brainer for an easy nighttime look. And I love layering Brilliant [a shimmery champagne] on as a highlighter.
Glamour: On the heels of Scandal‘s ending, you’ve spoken about how Olivia Pope inspired you to be more courageous. How has that translated into your attitude toward beauty?
KW: Olivia has encouraged me to be more bold with my beauty looks, but so have my kids. Wearing my natural hair on the red carpet has a lot to do with me being a mom now and wanting to reflect that for them. Again, it’s that idea that there’s not just one way to be beautiful and that there are lots of ways to bring out your best self. You don’t have to follow one prescription of what beauty is. I try to always be free and authentic and not leave the house until I’m like, OK, I feel good about this.
Glamour: What’s your best curly hair advice?
KW: Clarifying shampoo. I use it once a month, because I rely on so much conditioner and leave-in products that, if I don’t hit the reset button occasionally, my hair can get weighed down. Neutrogena has a good one; it’s not too overdrying, which I think is important for curly hair.
Glamour: If you could change one thing about beauty perceptions in Hollywood, what would it be?
KW: To keep working toward the idea that there’s room for every kind of beauty—in all it’s shapes, shades, and sizes.
Glamour: What’s your favorite emoji?
KW: I love discovering new ones! I have a girlfriend who sends me a lot of upside-down smiley faces 🙃, and it always makes me laugh. I also like the freaked-out face where the eyes are closed and the tongue is hanging out 😝. It’s appropriate for all of the feels: very happy, very sad, and very angry.
Glamour: Speaking of happy, what smell always makes you smile?
KW: I tend to play with scent when I’m developing a role; it’s one of the ways that helps me access character. I personally don’t have a signature scent, but I love what my house smells like when I’m baking with my kids. We’re a big banana bread and waffles on the weekend household. Those scents just smell like family.
–Kerry Washington’s Farewell Letter to ‘Scandal’ Would Make Even Eli Pope Cry
–Kerry Washington on Art As Activism and the Importance of “Staying Awake”
–16 Celebrities Who Gave Us Rare, Incredible Glimpses at Their Curls