Black History Month | In Praise of Shonda Rhimes

As we dive headfirst into February, we will really want to take the time this year to explore people of color and how they have contributed to our culture and lives in very real and significant ways. Shonda Rhimes is a proud and accomplished black woman who has contributed to shows that have graced our screens, both in home and silver since 1999 when she earned her first teleplay writing credit for the tv movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge starring the one and only Halle Berry who won an Emmy for her work in the multinominated film. Since then you will know her work as a writer, producer, director and general boss on the network shows you know and love; Greys Anatomy, Private Practice, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal to name a few. Most recently she released what Vanity Fair describes as the number 1 guilty pleasure on Netflix, Bridgeton; a period piece discussing sex and scandal and all the fun that comes with. That’s enough about her resume though.  What you do need to know is she has ruled your television for over 2 decades and frankly, most of the reason for that is her top notch writing and producing, but the rest is due to her superior business sense.

What you may not know is how difficult it is for a woman to be able to write and do what it is they want in Hollywood. How much more incredible it is for Rhimes to be able to tell her stories the way she wants to, not only as a woman, but as a black woman. Breaking into network television with a little show called Greys Anatomy, that came onto our screens as a mid season replacement, she can now boast through her blood sweat and tears, the show is in its 17th season with no sign of stopping. Rhimes attributes her success to her writing mainly, stating that diversity starts in the writers room, that it is up to the writers to tell stories of women, people of color, and those within the LGBTQ community. If a show is not doing that, it is the powers that be that are to blame for not hiring the right writers. In a previous interview with Insider Magazine, Rhimes stated, “It’s almost like there is a camouflage and they aren’t looking at them, but I’ve never had that problem.” She has famously stated that all the writers at Greys Anatomy are woman and when she did Scandal, there was only one person who could be considered a white straight male in the writers room. Rhimes has made it her mission to tell important stories of struggle in the most effortless way possible, by bringing in voices she feels are important, voices who have something to say.  

Rhimes has made it her mission to change the world one story at a time, and has a bit of a reputation when it comes to taking on challenges.  Her sister made an off handed comment about how Rhimes never seems to say yes to anything so she wrote the New York Times Best Seller, A Year of Yes where she committed to a full year of only saying yes. It was during this time she finally took a hard look at her own anxiety, lost 120 pounds, and explored the self help field as she quickly dominated it with her own writing. When Disney refused to give her a simple park pass after making them an incomparable amount of money in the 2 decades she had multiple shows on their ABC network, she inked a deal with Netflix where its rumored she got every term she asked for. Netflix could not have been more thrilled to give into her every whim and Rhimes, as a result, is now free to write and produce whatever it is she wants. Present this woman with a challenge and she will change your entire world as you know it.

As a girl who grew up in Chicago, IL, Rhimes learned quickly to fight for what it is she not only wants, but deserves. She is the youngest of 6 children, 2 brothers, and 3 sisters and is the daughter of educators. She attended Dartmouth College for her undergraduate education, later earning her Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Southern California in 1994. It was just a few years later that Rhimes got screen writing credit for Dandridge and the rest is herstory. Shonda Rhimes is a working mother of 3 girls who has shaped the world for not only her girls, but also for all of us at home.. Well written and thought out stories of struggle for people of color, woman, and those in the LGBTQ community have been gracing our screens for 2 decades thanks to Rhimes, and I for one look forward to what she will bring us in the future.

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