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Kerry Washington is now a household name. But like most stars, she started at the bottom. In fact, mega-star J. Lo, Washington was born in the Bronx. Considering her humble beginnings, the money Washington made for acting was a big deal. In fact, when she made her first big purchase with her new money, it wasn’t even from her salary. It was from her per diem

Kerry Washington used her ‘Save the Last Dance’ per diem to buy a laptop 

Kerry Washington smiling at the camera
Kerry Washington | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

A per diem is like an allowance actors get to use for their daily necessities while working on a film. It’s cash that’s normally used for meals and transportation costs.

As of 2019, the average amount given per day was $66. Washington may not have received that much, since Save the Last Dance was filmed in 2001, but it’s not unreasonable to assume she was given around $50 a day to live in LA. 

The per diem is supposed to be for food and other costs, but that’s not what Washington used it for. Instead, she spent the bare minimum and saved the rest. When the movie was done filming, she had saved enough to buy her first laptop. As Washington says, the move was “so Bronx girl of me.”

Save the Last Dance was my second movie, and we had a per diem. I couldn’t believe somebody was handing me cash and I literally used to hide it under my mattress for the whole movie. I put myself on a tight budget of what I could spend. And at the end of it, I used all the cash from the three months and bought my first laptop.”

‘Save the Last Dance’ was Kerry Washington’s second movie 

Although Save the Last Dance was the first movie where Washington made real money, it wasn’t her first film.

According to IMDB, her first movie was Our Song. It was released in 2000 and focused on three friends in a marching band. As Washington put it, the movie did not have a per diem, to say the least. She says “My first movie was a crazy guerilla filmmaking, independent movie, so our transpo department was a Metrocard.”

Things only got better from there for Washington. Although she may have started her career in a low budget movie, she’s gone on to star in a lot of big budget films, including Save the Last Dance. She also shines on the small screen, with shows like Scandal and Little Fires Everywhere impressing fans and critics alike. 

Kerry Washington now has a net worth of $25 million


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Washington probably doesn’t need to squirrel away her per diems anymore. She now has a net worth of $25 million. Although she was a movie star before Scandal, her move to television seems to be what gave her net worth it’s biggest boost. 

She started making $80,000 an episode on Scandal, which is no small sum. But by the end of the hit show’s run, she pulled in a full quarter of a million per episode.

Plus, for Washington, television is a better way to connect with an audience. As Washington put it: “The opportunity to be in relationship with so many people because you come into their homes. They don’t have to leave their home and get in their car and buy popcorn. They turn on their television every single week or every night, and they’re in relationship with you. It’s a different beast.”

She seems to have enjoyed acting on television, because she joined Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere alongside Reese Witherspoon.