Target_Judy_Smith_Laysha_Ward

Judy Smith, Inspiration for ABC Show “Scandal,” Visits Target

Photo by: Stephen Allen

In celebration of Black History and Women’s History months, Target welcomed crisis management expert Judy Smith, the real-life inspiration for the hit TV series “Scandal,” to our headquarters office.

Smith has more than 20 years of experience handling crises like the Iran Contra investigation, the prosecution of former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry, the 1991 Gulf War, the Los Angeles riots and the congressional inquiry of Enron.

Before giving a fascinating—and funny—keynote presentation about personal branding to more than 1,100 Target team members, Smith sat down with Target President of Community Relations Laysha Ward for an exclusive interview. After a few minutes of catching up, the longtime friends got down to business.

Laysha Ward: Ok, first things first, how much of the show “Scandal” is the truth?
Judy Smith:  D.C. is a one-industry town—politics and government. The show portrays that. But Washington is also very complex with a lot of players and agendas, and I think the show captures that.

LW: What element of Olivia Pope’s character on “Scandal” is most like you?
JS: It was important to me for the character to be someone who’s strong, at the top of her game, passionate about her work but also compassionate with her clients. And I think I’m closely related to those things.

LW: And what is least like you?
JS: I didn’t sleep with the President!

LW: What tips would you share for managing your personal brand?
JS: One of the first tips is actually defining, early on, what you want that brand to be. Think of three things that define you and your work. If these aren’t the things that come to mind when people think of you, you have work to do.

LW: Does a person’s brand evolve?
JS: Yes, absolutely. As you evolve as a person, so does your brand. You want it to get stronger, and you want the brand to expand as you grow in your career. You want to be seen as multidimensional.

LW: As we celebrate Black History Month and Women’s History Month, talk to me about what it’s like to be a role model to so many people.
JS: That’s very kind of you. I don’t know if I’m a role model! Look, I feel it’s always about passing it on. So if I somehow help or inspire or motivate people, I’m all for it.

LW: I’m impressed with your humility. What keeps you grounded?
JS: I’d say my parents. I’m so incredibly grateful to them because those basic values and principles have just been imbedded in me. Basic things like “treat everybody with decency and respect.” It doesn’t matter if you’re the President of the United States or if you’re a trash collector. You treat everybody the same. Those things have served me well.

LW: How do you carve out time for yourself?
JS: I try to take 30 minutes for myself each day to do whatever I want. It might be as simple as being on a plane and deciding not to take my computer out. And I love to walk, especially when the weather’s nice.

LW: At Target, we feel like service is our corporate responsibility. I’m impressed with how you’ve found a way to integrate giving into your own life.
JS: I don’t think there’s any other way to live. The world that we live in is not just about us, it’s about a bigger community. People bond by giving and sharing – it does just as much for you as it does for the other person. I make it a way of life.

The final half of “Scandal” Season 3 returns tonight at 10/9 p.m. Central on ABC!

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