Kerry Washington Has an Empowering Message For Black Women on Feeling Beautiful

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When I think of women who embody all it means to be beautiful and powerful, Kerry Washington is among the first who come to mind. The actress graces our screen as Olivia Pope on the hit show Scandal, all while balancing her life as a mom, style icon, and brand ambassador. I recently had the opportunity to speak to her in person as she celebrated her new Fall/Winter 2016 collaboration with OPI Nail Products.

Kerry partnered with the brand to create a just-launched collection of 15 nail polishes. Take one look at her Instagram and you'll see why lacquer was the perfect beauty category for Kerry to take on. Her feed is flooded with perfectly positioned #nailfies of her pretty manicures.

The names of her OPI shades were inspired by Washington DC and include colors cheekily titled "We the Female" (a bold garnet), "Freedom of Peach" (a rich orange), and "Pale to the Chief" (a nearly nude pink). Kerry previously worked in the White House on the Obama campaign for both of his terms, and she told me that the city holds a meaningful spot in her heart, which is evident in the names of her polishes.

I couldn't wait to hear from Kerry about her new collection. But naturally, I wouldn't let my opportunity to speak with one of my role models pass up without learning some of her coveted beauty secrets and how she balances her happiness with her A-list career. Read on to discover how Kerry keeps her skin clear and the lasting beauty lesson she's learned from her mom. Plus, see a closer look at all of the gorgeous nail polishes you'll be rocking from her collection.

On Her Collaboration With OPI

"My collection for OPI was inspired by Washington DC and my relationship to the city. I went to George Washington University, and I lived there for five years. I also worked in the White House before I was on Scandal on the Barack Obama's campaign and, of course, I pretend to live in DC all week long.

"I have this very special relationship with DC. So when the cofounder of OPI Products, Suzi [Weiss-Fischmann], called me with the idea to collaborate, I thought it would be really fun. We worked hands-on to create the perfect colors and names for each polish. I think we can all agree that every girl dreams of naming their own nail polish so that's been really fun!"

On Her Love For Nail Polish

"One of the things I think is so fun about nail color is that it lives in the space where beauty and fashion meet. It's a part of both rituals.

"Nail polish is particularly fun because it's a great accessory that isn't expensive. Unlike buying the It bag of the season, it's a very accessible way to have luxury and fashion in your life without breaking the bank. Plus, you can change your nails as often as you want. It is always very important to me to be involved with creating fashion and beauty that is accessible for everyone."

On Her Favorite Colors of the Collection

"I love all of the colors in our collection, but Pale to the Chief and Freedom of Peach are both really pretty. I was a little wary to include a yellow in this collection, because that color can be hit or miss. But when we began to develop the shade, it became this rich mustard color that is really beautiful and flattering for Fall."

On How She Keeps Her Natural Hair Healthy

"Since I use a lot of product on my hair regularly I try to give it a lot of love in between styling. I use the Neutrogena Triple Repair Moisture Mask ($7) as often as I can to prevent damage; it really leaves my hair feeling strong and healthy.

"Neutrogena also makes a great Anti-Residue Shampoo ($6) that I consider my reset button for my hair. I try to use it twice a month to completely remove all dirt and product from my hair. The good thing is that my hair is never left feeling dry and brittle but instead light and clean."

On How She Maintains Red Carpet Skin Despite Having Eczema
Getty | Teresa Kroeger / Contributor

On How She Maintains Red Carpet Skin Despite Having Eczema

"I truly believe that healthy skin starts internally. Drinking a lot of water is important, but finding out if there is something in your diet that is triggering a particular skin condition can also make a huge difference. In my case, I've found that dairy often triggers my eczema. I always joke with my husband and let him know that if we're in Europe I'm going to have eczema, because I just have to eat cheese!

"But I also never go to bed with makeup on. I'm a huge fan of the double cleansing method. I use the Neutrogena makeup remover wipes ($6) to get everything off. And then I cleanse with a face wash. I really think using wipes and cleanser is really important. No matter how late I am out or how hard I am partying, I make sure my skin can breathe at the end of the day."

On Being a Role Model For Black Women

"I think it's so important that we feel good about ourselves despite the messaging that is sometimes put out there. It's important that we are showing up in the world and saying 'this is who I am, and I am proud of who I am.'

"I think of 'Freedom' [a song on Beyoncé's Lemonade], and I think about Viola Davis on the cover of Elle, and having Thursday nights on television be diverse and beautiful. These things make me feel good. We have to let the world know that our beauty is part of the true spectrum of beauty. We don't have to conform to anyone else's standards of what beauty is. We are already enough and so much more. I think the more that black women — and all women — can celebrate each other for being proud, the more we can achieve and the positivity we can spread."

On the Beauty Lesson That Keeps Her Grounded
Getty | Jason LaVeris

On the Beauty Lesson That Keeps Her Grounded

"Growing up I've always seen my mom go to her weekly nail appointment. Now, my mom is not a huge glamour girl. She may not have bought the latest eye shadow, or the latest pair of boots. But she really set the example for me by taking time for herself to do the things that make her feel good. So that example was really powerful for me. Feeling sane and beautiful was less about what other people thought about her and more about doing something for herself.

"For me, it's more than just getting my nails done. I've learned the importance of setting time aside to do things that make me feel good about myself."

On Her Favorite Ways to Spend "Me" Time

"My favorite 'me time' activity is definitely getting in my workouts. Staying active is how I take care of myself, maintain my health, and get those endorphins flowing. I love Pilates, hiking, and just moving around. If I can't do those activities, I spend a few minutes on the elliptical.

"But beyond that, I really just try to take an hour out of my day to focus on me. That could be studying my lines, watching some TV, or whatever it is. I cut out the world and focus on me and what I need to do. And I think that makes all the difference. It's definitely something everyone should do for themselves."