by Claire Hannum
When it comes to “Scandal,” I was late to the party, but I’ve finally fallen down the drama-filled rabbit hole that’s had all my friends hooked since day one. What was my empty life before I found the feminist hero that is Olivia Pope!? I feel like she’s a role model, superhero, and big sister all wrapped up in one. Here are a few things all of us can learn from Olivia’s badass approach to life:
1. Trust your gut. Olivia is amazing at reading people — that’s where she gets her most reliable information. Listen to what your gut is telling you, even when others are trying to distract you and sway you in a different direction.
2. Confidence will get you places. She knows she’s skilled, and she’s not afraid to say it to the big, scary bureaucrats who try to intimidate her. Own what you’re good at!
3. If you wait until you’re perfect, you’ll never get anything done. Critics love to point to Olivia’s affair with the president as a dealbreaker for the whole series. They ask why we should root for a person whose choices aren’t always perfect. But how many compelling television characters are perfect? Perfect people are boring to watch, and beyond that, Olivia has her shit together. A personal downfall doesn’t determine her ability to be amazing at her career, and she doesn’t allow her mistakes to define who she is. If she called off her whole career just because she’s a human being with flaws, she wouldn’t be able to help the countless clients whose lives she changes. Instead of not bothering to try at all because she’ll never be perfect, she gets up every morning, tries to forgive herself for her mistakes, and does her best. We should do the same.
4. Living alone is totally awesome. Based on her swank apartment, complete with its own landline phone (vintage!), having your own place is the stuff of dreams. Living alone allows you to maintain a spice rack and throw pillows, and to classily sip wine in front of the TV after work without spilling on your cream-colored, wrinkle-free sweater.
5. Good guys don’t always finish last. There’s a common narrative in life that bullies rise to the top while good people get stepped on. Olivia fights the good fight (well, most of the time) and still practically runs the world. Take note!
6. Business casual doesn’t have to look like a tragic fluorescent stock photo. Olivia brings a whole new meaning to dressing to impress. Someone in her line of work could easily wear the most drab of professional attire, but her classy looks are fashion-forward and sophisticated. Even Olivia’s “low-key” weekend wear is “brunch with Jackie Kennedy” chic.
7. Knowing how to tell a story is half the bottle. Why doesn’t every college communications department have a class on this fab lady’s PR tactics yet?
8. Not everyone has to like you. Do you think Olivia cares what you think about her? She doesn’t waste time trying to change her ways to win over people who don’t respect her (cough Mellie cough). She does what she does best, and quality people (Abby, Harrison, and Huck) who she can trust find their way into her life all on their own.
9. Bad choices have actual consequences. Unlike plenty of other philandering TV characters in pop culture who carry on without thinking twice, Olivia’s affair with the president costs her a lot. She loses lots of sleep, tears and even credibility to keep seeing her toxic lover, but that’s a choice she makes. She can keep making a controversial decision, but it comes at a hefty price — much like real life.
10. You don’t need to yell and scream to get things done. As women in a dude-dominated White House, Olivia and her peers like First Lady Mellie Grant are often forced to get creative if they want to leverage any kind of power. Some handle that frustration better than others. Take, for instance, Cyrus Beene, who seems constantly on the verge of a heart attack. Olivia may not be bigger or louder than the men she works with, but she is just as brilliant and capable. If she doesn’t like the power dynamic in her world, she can set things in a better direction by changing the angle of the conversation, just like she does for her clients — and just like we can do when we don’t like the way life is heading.