The Tinseltown vet has graduated from playing bit parts in films like "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and "Save the Last Dance," to become a Hollywood heavyweight that commands top billing on both the big and small screen. Currently, she's shepherding a cult-like following playing crisis manager Olivia Pope on ABC's "Scandal."
And the New York native is not taking her recent "It Girl" status for granted. Washington stirs the fan pot weekly, live-tweeting to her 800,000+ followers during the show's Thursday night time slot, and regularly thanking creator Shonda Rhimes on Twitter and in interviews for giving her the role.
"I'm the luckiest broad in Hollywood now," Washington tells Elle magazine. "To be the lead actor on 'Scandal' and to be in the highest-earning [Quentin] Tarantino movie -- I don't get to ask for more."
The Tarantino movie she's referencing is this year's Oscar-winner for Best Screenplay, "Django Unchained," which saw Washington reunite with her "Ray" co-star Jamie Foxx.
This week, Washington will be back on the big screen in Tyler Perry's latest installment, "Peeples," opening Friday. But, according to the actress, she never thought she'd be a leading lady at all.
"I was not that girl," she tells Elle. "I was a kooky theater kid, silly and goofy and academic."
In fact, she had a whole different career path picked out. "I imagined I'd be a clinical psychologist, with a focus on how performance shapes identity. I'd figure out ways to use role playing in the healing of people."
But Washington admits that she does enjoy certain perks that come along with an actor's lifestyle: namely, dressing up for red carpets. It's something she's quite good at, as she regularly lands on best dressed lists.
"I found out I enjoy the process," the L'Oreal spokesperson reveals. "All these people show up at my house, they all have kits, someone has dresses. And it's like, Let’s have fun. It's not all about me. We're able to create stories on the red carpet."
In fact, she created a fashion story Monday night, wearing a purple Very Wang creation to the punk-themed Met Gala in New York City.
"To honor Vera's design, I put all these purple highlights in my hair to have a punk moment," Washington shared of matching her hair to her dress on the red carpet. "I've never done anything like this in my life to rock some purple streaks. So fun, I feel like I may have discovered something new about myself tonight."
Read more of Kerry's interview in the June issue of Elle, on newsstands May 21.
More Features on Yahoo!:
- Stars Rock the Met Gala Red Carpet (Photos)
- See Wendy Williams's 20-Pound Weight Loss
- Anne Hathaway Goes Blond
- Arts & Entertainment
- Kerry Washington