Kerry Washington Talks Social Media and Stardom at SXSW

By Travis Tyler
SXSW Press Team

From Left to Right: Ariel Foxman & Kerry Washington. Photo by Travis Tyler.
From Left to Right: Ariel Foxman & Kerry Washington. Photo by Travis Tyler.

For all you Scandal watchers, Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress Kerry Washington stopped by South by Southwest Interactive for a broad discussion with InStyle editorial director Ariel Foxman on social media. Well-spoken and charming, Kerry let the audience into her world. From maintaining her privacy, to personal branding or even how she uses social media to stand up for issues important to her. She sets her own rules and strives to keep a balanced presence in a world where social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook are the future of personal branding.

“Being such an advocate for women’s rights, children’s rights, civil rights, how do you decide when to enter into the conversation on social media?” Foxman asked.

“A lot of it comes from what’s in my heart and what moves me,” Washington said. “What do I come across that stops me in my tracks? How did I not know that? And I want to make sure other people have access to that information.”

Washington followed by giving an example about the LGBTQ community and their struggles in Russia and how she retweeted the article to keep people aware.

Foxman continued the discussion by asking if the actress read her comments and if she ever replies to them personally. Washington replied, “I really do not read comments on other platforms or any articles, not only me but with other people as well because… people are so mean.”

Social media opens the door for public ridicule from “Internet Trolls” and other negative people to say whatever they want about anyone and everyone. So how does Washington deal with the negativity?

“The truth about comments that I learned is that they’re not about me,” Washington said. “That when somebody comments on social media, they are revealing something to me about themselves.”

Lastly, the interview turned to how social media can make a difference when people reply with helpful information. Washington briefly discussed her contract with Neutrogena’s new makeup line and the negative criticism the company received for signing her without any foundation palette designed for her skin tone at the time. She encouraged people to use social media to act as a voice. Had the company not tracked the social media response attributed to the signing of Washington, they would not have been able to see the audience they were missing out on and make the changes to create those foundations for women of color.

“To be able to say to a consumer, to a woman of color, you matter, your voice matters. I need you to keep using your voice in the world because look at the change you’ve created,” Washington said.

Kerry Washington’s panel was by far the most exciting panel that I got to attend. I was, of course, awe struck but I believe that comes with the whole “Seeing a Celebrity” in person deal. Her advice on having a voice on social media was beautiful because it can seem like your one tweet doesn’t matter among millions of users on the web. However, it does and it can make a difference.

My final take from the panel was that Washington is a human just like everyone else. I think we, as people, forget celebrities are human too. So thank you Ms. Washington for showing us just that.

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