“It scared me that I could not want to be here because I was in so much pain.” Kerry Washington revealed to Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts. 

Kerry Washington delved deep into her past in a new 20/20 interview with Robin Roberts. The celebrated actress, most known for her remarkable role as Olivia Pope in ABC’s hit show “Scandal,” that was recently trending, revealed a deeply personal struggle of a battle with an eating disorder that led to thoughts of suicide. 

This revelation comes in her new upcoming memoir, “Thicker Than Water,” where she bravely disclosed that at the height of her disorder, her behavior was “tiny little acts of trying to destroy myself.” Washington’s relationship with food and her body became so severe that she could “feel how the abuse was a way to really hurt myself, as if I didn’t want to be here,” she told Roberts.  

Mental Health in The Black Community

Washington’s honesty adds to the ongoing conversation of the pervasive issue of suicide and mental health within the Black community, especially among Black women and children in America.

“The behavior was just so abusive toward myself with food, with exercise, with starving — with binging, with — it just was — I could not control it,” Washington admitted to Roberts.

Black girls and women face unique challenges that contribute to mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts. Placed at the intersection of race and gender discrimination, socioeconomic disparities, and systemic inequity, Black girl’s and women’s mental health issues are often magnified. For instance, suicide rates among Black girls aged 13-19 have been steadily increasing, making it the group with the highest increase in suicide rates over the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 

Kerry Washington is someone who developed an eating disorder as a teen and struggled with her health for many years. Concerning statistics reveal Black teenagers are 50% more likely to exhibit bulimic behavior, like binge eating and purging, than their White peers according to the National Eating Disorders Association. As well as, Black, Indigenous and People of Color being half as likely to be diagnosed or treated for eating disorders. 

Hollywood’s Impact

Washington is a powerhouse in Hollywood, renowned for her versatile and captivating performances that have earned her numerous awards, including Primetime Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe Award. Her role on “Scandal” broke barriers as Washington became the first African-American woman to headline a network TV drama in 38 years.

Though she hadn’t seriously begun her acting career at the time of her disorder, Hollywood has long been criticized for perpetuating harmful beauty standards that can lead to mental health issues, including eating disorders. The immense pressure to maintain a certain image, often unrealistic and unattainable, takes a toll on even the most successful and talented actresses. Many fans are unaware that their favorite celebrities suffer silently, grappling with body image issues, eating disorders, and mental health woes.

Fans Support Washington

Fans and fellow celebrities rallied behind Washington, commending her courage in sharing a deeply personal experience and excited for the release of her memoir. 

Today, Washington has a healthier relationship with food and her mental health. But her candid admission of her struggles with an eating disorder and suicidal thoughts seem to resonate deeply, offering a glimmer of hope to those who may be silently suffering.

Ultimately, her revelation reminds us that behind the red carpet glitz and glamor are individuals overcoming battles and facing their own fears and vulnerabilities. Washington’s honesty in sharing her story is a step towards breaking the silence and stigma surrounding mental health, and encouraging others to seek help and healing.

Aysia Morton, a culture and travel writer, wrote this story.