When Alexandria Taliaferro, CCAS ’16, signed up to help support GW’s 2013 Commencement ceremony, she knew she’d be getting glimpse at her future as a GW graduate. What she didn’t know is that she’d meet her idol.
Taliaferro, who is working towards an acting career, is a big fan of Kerry Washington, CCAS BA ’98, the award-winning actor, activist and star of ABC’s “Scandal.” Washington was the 2013 commencement speaker, and Taliaferro volunteered to work at the event, hoping she’d have a chance to hear the alumna’s speech.
“I’ve always known that Kerry Washington and I share a lot of similarities. We are both from the Bronx, both went to private, all-girls high schools, and both studied theatre here at GW on a Presidential Arts Scholarship under the guidance of professor Leslie Jacobson,” explains Taliaferro.
Taliaferro was slightly disappointed when she was assigned to metro duty during Commencement 2013, which meant she’d miss the ceremony itself.
But as luck would have it, an “only at GW moment” was in Taliaferro’s future.
After the ceremony was finished, Taliaferro was back at Thurston Hall, where she was living at the time. Just across the way is GW President Steven Knapp’s house—where Taliaferro noticed a black SUV parked outside. With their curiosity piqued, Taliaferro and her mom walked across the street.
“Sure enough,” says Taliaferro, “Kerry herself walked out about an hour after we’d gotten there. There were only a few other people around, and none seemed to notice her coming down the stairs.”
Taliaferro’s mom gave her daughter a gentle nudge in Washington’s direction, and the then-freshman had her chance to meet her role model.
“I told her that she was my inspiration for pursuing my acting career, and that my mom and I were obsessed with her television show “Scandal.” She gave me a hug and thanked me, and before I knew it, I was sobbing. It was such a surreal feeling meeting someone I had looked up to for so many years,” recalls Taliaferro. “Kerry’s parents even came over and told me how sweet I was.”
As she prepared to leave, Washington hugged Taliaferro just as Leslie Jacobson, their shared professor, walked out.
Jacobson then formally introduced Taliaferro and told Washington about all the work Taliaferro had done in her class.
She also mentioned how much Taliaferro reminded her of Washington when the actor was a GW student.
“I just about lost it,” says Taliaferro. “I was crying so hard that Kerry actually held my hand during our whole conversation to calm me down. She told me that I was headed in the right direction and that I should always do what I love. I don’t think I’ve ever been more happy to hear someone say those words in my entire life.”
Before Washington and her parents left campus, Taliaferro took a few pictures with her idol, to help commemorate an already unforgettable day. Months later, Taliaferro is still moved by the experience.
“While our exchange only lasted 20 or 30 minutes, I can undoubtedly say that it was a life-changing experience. She was even more beautiful, eloquent, and sweet than I’d expected,” says Taliaferro.
“I can only hope,” she adds, “that when I become a successful actress, and a fan comes up to me, I will be able to handle myself with as much elegance and grace as she did. I can honestly say that Kerry Washington made my dreams come true.”
Thanks to Alexandria Taliaferro for sharing this story! Missed Kerry Washington’s speech at Commencement 2013? Watch a video of her remarks: