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Kerry Washington Clarifies Her Magazine Cover Criticism: ‘Airbrushing Is Not the Devil’


Kerry Washington has not been shy about speaking out about the pitfalls of Photoshop. Last year, she addressed fan concerns about her seemingly lighter skin on the cover of InStyle by tweeting that it was “an important [conversation] to be had.” And just last week, she expressed dismay about her AdWeek its altered (and unrecognizable) cover photo of her. “It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror,” she said in a caption for an Instagram post she put up of the cover shot.

But the Scandal isn’t ready to paint all digital touch-ups with the same negative (air)brush.

Kerry Washington Airbrushing

During a conversation with Oprah Winfrey at Super Soul Sessions (Series 2) in L.A. this weekend, the 39-year-old addressed her previous comments. “I want to be really honest,” she said. “Airbrushing is not the devil. It’s not all horrible.”

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She appreciates the work of the touch-up team when it comes to the occasional blemish or errant fabric. “I’ve had days where I’ve shown up to [shoot] the cover of [a] magazine on a more hormonal day of the month and have a big red dot [on my forehead],” she said. “They say we’ll take care of it in [post-production] and I’ve never complained about that. Maybe that is wrong. I mean, I need something, sometimes! You know, a wrinkle in a dress, you want to smooth that out in post, that’s great.”

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The problem, she said, is when it goes too far. “I was very taken aback and very uncomfortable about looking at an image that I did not recognize as myself,” she told Winfrey, referring to the recent AdWeek cover. “I felt like, in a way, that is not okay with me because that echoes that little girl that thought I wasn’t enough. And I know that I am enough, so don’t make me feel like I’m not enough by changing me to fit some idea of what you think I’m supposed to look like.”

So…You know me. I'm not one to be quiet about a magazine cover. I always celebrate it when a respected publication invites me to grace their pages. It's an honor. And a privilege. And ADWEEK is no exception. I love ADWEEK. It's a publication I appreciate. And learn from. I've long followed them on Twitter. And when they invited me to do a cover, I was excited and thrilled. And the truth is, I'm still excited. I'm proud of the article. And I like some of the inside images a great deal. But, I have to be honest…I was taken aback by the cover. Look, I'm no stranger to Photoshopping. It happens a lot. In a way, we have become a society of picture adjusters – who doesn't love a filter?!? And I don't always take these adjustments to task but I have had the opportunity to address the impact of my altered image in the past and I think it's a valuable conversation. Yesterday, however, I just felt weary. It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror. It's an unfortunate feeling. That being said. You all have been very kind and supportive. Also, as I've said, I'm very proud of the article. There are a few things we discussed in the interview that were left out. Things that are important to me (like: the importance of strong professional support and my awesome professional team) and I've been thinking about how to discuss those things with anyone who is interested, in an alternate forum. But until then…Grab this week's ADWEEK. Read it. I hope you enjoy it. And thank you for being patient with me while I figured out how to post this in a way that felt both celebratory and honest. XOXOXOX

A photo posted by Kerry Washington (@kerrywashington) on

Washington credits this outspokenness to making her successful. “I didn’t really conform,” she said of how she made it in Hollywood. “I didn’t really change those things that people told me I had to change. I don’t think I was going to be awarded for being someone else because I never have been.”

“Honestly—I’ve never had this thought before sitting here with you—but I think I spent the first 20 years of my life trying to be somebody else. I just don’t have the energy at this point.”

Tell us: Do you agree with Kerry Washington’s thoughts on airbrushing?

—Sharon Clott Kanter, with reporting by Danielle Garlock