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Kerry Washington Opened Up to Oprah: ‘I Spent the First 20 Years of My Life Trying to Be Somebody Else’

Photo: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images

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If anyone can coax a media-wary celebrity to open up, it's Oprah. Speaking with Kerry Washington, who last week (tactfully) called out Adweek for Photoshopping her likeness beyond all recognition, Oprah got her to discuss the rough patches in her early years in show business.

As a guest on Oprah's "Super Soul Session Sunday," Kerry Washington offered a strong case for late-in-life career success, People reports"In the beginning of my career I was often told to fix things like fix your teeth, wear your hair differently or dress differently or I was too ethnic or I didn't speak black enough," she said. "Whatever it was. These were the reasons why I wasn't making it in the beginning of my career."

She also talked about how Scandal was far from the first promising TV show she starred in. "Before I did Scandal I did two other pilots for TV shows. Both of them got picked up, but I was fired, 'We love the show but she's gotta go.'"

Why? "I think because I've always been me," she said. "I didn't really conform. I didn't really change those things that people told me I had to change."

She also shared one highly depressing thought, which is that for 20 years, Kerry Washington didn't want to be Kerry Washington: "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 so I just don't have the energy at this point."

Happily, however, she made a note of when things started turning around, career-wise. "When my career has been angled to unfold I felt like it was because I was being myself." Moral of the story? If you're born Kerry Washington, be Kerry Washington.