Kerry Washington and Gwyneth Paltrow Spill Secrets From Their High School Days

The actresses opened up in a discussion and got really honest about their younger selves.

By Vannessa Jackson Oct 23, 2019 9:45 PMTags
Gwyneth Paltrow, Kerry Washington

Let's take a stroll down memory lane...

Believe it or not, Kerry Washington and Gwyneth Paltrow go way back. They may be successful actresses with thriving business ventures to boast, but once upon a time they were students at Spence School, an all-girls private school in New York city.

This week, Kerry was the featured guest on Gwyneth's Goop podcast, and the last guest in a series they've been doing called "Women On Top." The two discuss their shared experiences in school, and how their paths crossed when Gwyneth was a senior and Kerry was in the eighth grade auditioning for the a capella group at the school prior to her freshmen year. 

"This is so surreal," Gwyneth shared about the experience of interviewing Kerry. "I was in a singing group called 'Triple Trio'...We were holding auditions because a bunch of us were graduating, and in walks Kerry Washington. The most beautiful—first of all, your face has not changed. No aging whatsoever—This beautiful eight grader comes in so confident. She opened her mouth and the most exquisite voice came out." 

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After singing her praises, Gwyneth and Kerry discussed why she no longer sings publicly. She jokes that she still sings in the shower and to her kids, but as for whether we'll see her in any musical roles, the Scandal actress says she's "open to it." 

While she had a blast being a part of "Triple Trio," Kerry discussed how feeling like an outsider while at Spence contributed to her chosen path as an actress. Kerry attended the school at a time when most of the student body was predominantly white. Thanks to her mom's desire for her to be more challenged in her education, she was able to attend Spence, but revealed that being the odd man out was a bit harder than she expected. 

"It was an absolute culture shock," Kerry explained. "We were rich in the Bronx because we had like two cars and a dishwasher and a microwave. Then I got to Spence and it was like helipads on peoples roofs in the Hampton's. I really didn't know how to comprehend it." 

Kerry explained how being introduced to this way of life was not only confusing, but also forced her to feel very isolated. "I remember in that moment thinking, 'I cannot present any of these feelings I'm having right now, because it will identify me as other.' These are my new friends at Spence and this is their norm," she shared about the experience. "If I ask a bunch of questions or act like this is weird, I will identify myself as being outside their circle. So I have to act like this is normal and figure out what the f--k is going on." 

Kerry also revealed she didn't share her emotions with her parents for fear of making them feel bad or seeming ungrateful for their contributions. Which essentially helped her begin to understand the process of acting and what it was like to play different roles within your own life. 

"I didn't become an actor because of that, but I did start to understand, oh there is a level of identity that is about performance," she shared. "I started to look at my life almost anthropologically. Like, when I get on the subway in the morning, there is a particular way that people walk and talk and dress and eat and breathe even. 45 minutes later, there is a totally different way that people walk and talk and dress and breathe...I just started understanding all of these cultural indicators and what code switching looked like and felt like." 

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Beyond her own personal experiences at school, Kerry also remembers her interactions with Gwyneth, and made sure everyone knew that the actress and businesswoman has always been cool. 

"Gwyneth was always cool," Kerry joked. "By junior, senior year—absolutely." The business mogul took the compliment with grace before laughing it off. 

The two also discussed Kerry's Broadway play turned Netflix show American Son and how they manage to balance career, marriage and motherhood without missing a beat. One thing is for sure, these two women are definitely on top!