Kerry Washington just has it all down.
As E! News exclusively reported this morning, the Emmy-nominated actress gave birth to her second child on Oct. 5, a son she and husband Nnamdi Asomugha have named Caleb Kelechi. But that was two weeks ago, and this is the Internet-and-24/7-social-media-sightings age.
It was the same story with the birth of her first child, daughter Isabelle Amarachi, who was born about two weeks before TMZ got wind of the infant’s arrival. And you better believe that everyone had been putting out feelers for Washington’s whereabouts as she entered the final weeks of that pregnancy, too.
Yet the star of one of the most popular shows on TV, model, activist and subject of much style envy managed to have both of her kids cloaked in the peace of relative secrecy. How did she pull that off?
Basically, Washington just knows that if you want something, you have to go forth and grab it—and in these cases, that something has been privacy.
The 39-year-old actress has figured out that keeping a low profile when it matters is possible if you’re so inclined. It’s this savvy that allowed her to practically elope (at least, away from the rest of us if not their families) in June 2013 with surprise fiancé (at least, surprise to us) Nnamdi Asomugha, whom she had never been photographed with before saying “I do” to being his lawfully wedded wife.
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E! News broke the story of their top-secret wedding about a week after they tied the knot in Blaine County, Idaho.
The other reason why Washington may be so good at ducking the cameras when she so pleases is that she reached the tip-top of the Hollywood food chain after many years of more subtle fame—and therefore hasn’t spent 10 years being followed as some of the more ingenue, got-their-start-on-the-WB-and-married-famous types out there have.
Everyone wants a picture of Kerry on the red carpet (especially because she’s inevitably one of the best-dressed stars on it every time) and she’s in no way a shrinking violet, attending award shows, doing talk shows, vocally supporting Hillary Clinton this summer and appearing on Real Time With Bill Maher on Sept. 16, just two and a half weeks before giving birth.
But by the time she became an It girl all over again at 35, thanks to the premiere of Scandal and her memorable turn in Django Unchained, both in 2012, Washington learned how to strike just the right balance of accessibility and mystery.
We know her so well and yet…she could really be doing anything—like falling in love and getting married—and we’d have no idea. While she’s been a consistently busy actress on screen and stage for 16 years, it sounds as though reaching the pinnacle of success in her 30s helped make the process of prioritizing career, fame and family much easier.
“Earlier in my career I was much more super-sharey,” she told Lena Dunham, who wrote up a Q&A session she had with Kerry for Marie Claire last year. “There were moments when I wanted to process things that were happening to me more privately, and I didn’t have the space to do it, because once you let people in, they’re in and you don’t get to say, ‘Oh, I want this for myself.'”
And the more successful you got, the more everybody wants in.
“There was a period before Scandal when I went into the wilderness,” Washington told Oprah Winfrey on SuperSoul Sessions earlier this year. “There was a lot of toxicity in my life, people I needed to let go of in a personal way, in a business way. And, also, I felt like I had been living my career kind of on auto-pilot. I took a break and did a Broadway play. I went back to my roots as an artist.”
And Suffice it to say, she emerged from her rebuilding period a fully formed badass when it comes to doing her job with intention and purpose, speaking up for what she believes in and fighting the notion that women should feel torn about cutting into their family time to have a career.
“I know why [guilt]is the word that keeps coming up, but I can’t co-sign on it yet,” she told InStyle last year. “There has got to be a better way.
“You can’t be all things to all people all the time. You have to experience your humanity, you have to know you are a limited vessel and can only do so much.”
Washington also had more perspective by the time she became a first-time mom, having worked so hard to get where she was in her career and having ultimately found the right guy after experiencing a broken engagement (to David Moscow, in 2007). If she wasn’t exactly savoring every struggle in the moment, she was at least able to appreciate herself and her achievements all the more later on.
The Neutrogena brand ambassador had also told Dunham, “I didn’t grow up thinking I was pretty; there was always a prettier girl than me. So I learned to be smart and tried to be funny and develop the inside of me, because I felt like that’s what I had.”
As ridiculous as that first part sounds, it all helped form the foundation for who Washington is today, the choices she makes and her view on life from the top.
“I will say I feel really, really blessed,” Kerry told the Los Angeles Times in 2014, shortly after having her son. “I just feel really blessed that I’m kind of living extraordinary dreams come true in my work life and in my personal life.”
Speaking of keeping those two things separate, Washington also has her social media game under control. She’s on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook but she’s been keeping all accounts largely professional or work-related these days (her stunning Emmys look is work-related, really) and she took a pointed break over the summer.
“I started to feel overwhelmed, like there was too much noise,” InStyle‘s September issue cover girl explained to the magazine. “I felt like I had to get back to who Kerry really is.” She added, “That thing that happens in social media where you’re comparing your day or your life or your food or your mood or your kids to somebody else’s…I felt like I needed to create a little more stillness around me.”
And she relished the freedom, for both herself and the baby boy she was expecting at the time. “There’s something about pregnancy, that willingness to take up more space in the world—that is liberating,” Washington concluded.
On sheer stardom alone, the orbit around Kerry has been steadily expanding—and she has made sure that the space within is all her own.