ABC’s “Scandal” is without a doubt, the hottest new phenomenon on TV. Shonda Rimes’ political thriller presents lightning-speed storylines that leave viewers breathless from week to week. But actress Kerry Washington’s (Olivia Pope) on-screen finesse is the cherry that sits atop this decadent sundae. We could credit the “Django Unchained” star’s obvious aplomb for the show’s soaring ratings. But you’d be surprised by how much Washington’s make-up, hair, and wardrobe also play into Olivia Pope’s complicated existence. (Attention: POSSIBLE SPOILERS)
Kerry’s facial expressions alone are as significant as her brainy dialogue. But those soulful eyes and tell-tale grin have a little help from calculated cosmetics. Her trademark face features a decidedly sheer look. Throughout most of the scenes, blush is kept to a minimum. At other times, it’s rosy – mimicking the flush of desire, which is a persistent undercurrent throughout the series. Nude lips with a hint of pink keep us from being too distracted during rapid-fire conversation.
Managing the crises of the rich and powerful requires an easy, breezy hairdo. As such, Pope’s soft curls ensure that we also view the shrewdest woman in Washington (aside from the First Lady) as a vulnerable person. The sweet styling reminds viewers why President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) has fallen in love with her. Consequently, we don’t see her hair straight and sleek until season 2, when her character attempts to step away from the President’s influence and into the arms of a former lover, Senator Edison Davis.
Since bangs tend to make women look more youthful, she’s shown wearing them during her campaign days with the President –when their budding romance is at its most “innocent.” The only exception to these styles is revealed during a scene with Navy captain Jake Ballard (Scott Foley); Olivia’s curly wet tresses are pulled away from her face presumably after she’s emerged from the shower. Naked figuratively and literally, she is bared before Ballard’s hidden cameras.
The Warrior’s Wardrobe
We can tell the most from Washington’s well-planned wardrobe. Monochromatic styling elongates Kerry’s 5’4” frame, especially in steamy scenes with Fitz, who’s more than six feet tall. Pope’s wardrobe is heavy on neutrals, particularly cream and gray – a smart choice for a character that often has one foot on either side of the law. Long gloves provide her outfits an elegant flair, and ensure that she doesn’t get her hands too “dirty.” Olivia’s trench coats and suit jackets feature prominent shoulders. After all, you’d want strong shoulders too, if you were carrying the weight of the world.