How 'Scandal' artfully re-created viral Michelle Obama portrait moment in the series finale

Olivia Pope is added to the National Portrait Gallery in the series finale of <em>Scandal</em>. (Photo: Hulu)
Olivia Pope is added to the National Portrait Gallery in the series finale of Scandal. (Photo: Hulu)

With its deliriously entertaining plot twists and crazy cast of characters, few people would argue that Shonda Rhimes’s Washington, D.C.-set soap opera Scandal resembled the real world. But in the final moments of the show’s series finale, “Over a Cliff,” art definitely imitated life.

As the Rhimes-penned episode drew to a close, viewers were treated to lingering glimpses of all the people they had come to love (and hate) over seven seasons. Interspersed with those farewells was a sequence of two young girls walking through the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and lingering in front of a newly hung painting. Eventually, the camera reveals that they are awestruck by the image of none other than our heroine, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), enshrined forever among presidents, first ladies, and other notable government gladiators. It’s a moment that deliberately echoes a famous photo snapped last month of a little girl gazing in awe at a portrait of former FLOTUS Michelle Obama that is displayed in the gallery.


A post shared by Shonda Rhimes (@shondarhimes) on Apr 20, 2018 at 9:01am PDT

Many are taking that finale sequence to mean that, at some point in our future, America can look forward to President Pope calling the shots from the Oval Office. (Maybe she’s elected after President Knope?) Rhimes has declined to specify why Olivia is admitted to the National Portrait Gallery, claiming on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that she is going to hold onto that secret “for the rest of my life.”

It’s no secret, though, that Michelle Obama adores Scandal, even letting her fan flag fly when she met series stars Bellamy Young and Tony Goldwyn at the White House in 2015. So it’s only natural that Rhimes would want to pay tribute to her in the finale by re-creating her eye-catching Amy Sherald-painted portrait and the little girl, Parker Curry, who was so entranced by it. Two days after the picture of Curry stunned the Internet, Obama met Curry in person and shared a snapshot of their encounter on Instagram, resulting in another viral sensation.

Although Curry isn’t one of the two girls glimpsed in Scandal‘s finale, Rhimes did make room for a surprise cameo: Her daughter Harper Rhimes plays the older of the pair. And that isn’t Harper’s only contribution to the show’s artistic legacy. In a post-finale tweet, Rhimes revealed that one of her daughter’s paintings has been adorning a wall in the offices of Quinn Perkins & Associates (renamed after Olivia divested herself of the company) for years.

Memo to the Smithsonian: Who do we have to petition to include Harper’s historic painting in one of your museums?

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