Screenwriter and producer
Why we’re saluting her:
Shonda Rhimes is one of the most influential women, let alone Black women, in the television entertainment industry right now. The screenwriter, director, and producer is the creator of three of the most-watched shows on TV right now: Grey’s Anatomy, it’s spin-off Private Practice, and our personal favorite, Scandal.
Rhimes developed a knack for storytelling as a young girl growing up in Chicago and while at Dartmouth working on her B.A., she further developed that skill, dividing her time between writing fiction and directing and performing in plays. She then went on to study screenwriting at USC, where that talent fully manifested itself into a Master of Fine Arts from the university’s School of Cinema-Television. Ranking at the top of her class, while there Rhimes earned the prestigious Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship Award.
Despite the academic recognition, Rhimes found herself in Hollywood and unemployed after college, working a variety of day jobs, from office administrator to counselor, to make ends meet. All was not lost though, as Rhimes also spent that time working on the 1995 Peabody Award-winning documentary, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, and soon after earned an assignment to write the 1999 HBO movie, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which won numerous awards and established Rhimes as a strong force in the industry.
Ten years and experience writing, producing, and directing several successful movies passed before Rhimes gave birth to Grey’s Anatomy, but since then she’s been an unstoppable force. Grey’s is the highest-rated drama in the 18–49 demographic and was previously ranked as one of the overall top-ten rated shows in the United States. It’s also an exemplary representation of how to do diversity right, and Rhimes has continued to demonstrate that skill in her subsequent projects, especially Scandal, which stars Kerry Washington in the first lead role for an African American woman in 38 years, and the only among the major networks.
Outside of the professional realm, Rhimes is equally inspirational, having adopted her first daughter, Harper, in June 2002 and another girl named Emerson Pearl in February 2012 . For making it her business to display the diversity that occupies American Society on the television screen, we salute Shonda Rhimes.