Celebrating Black History Month: Shonda Rhimes

Matthew Davy, Staff Reporter

Shonda Rhimes has made history yet again, with her new show ‘Bridgerton’ being recognized as the biggest hit in Netflix history. 

Despite being a huge name in Hollywood today, Rhimes began life as the youngest of six siblings in a successful household, meaning that she had to work twice as hard if she wanted to stand out. 

From a young age, her family saw her passion for storytelling, which developed into academic success in subjects such as English and film studies. However, whilst in high school, she volunteered to assist in a hospital, giving her experience and a personal interest in the medical field.

She excelled throughout college, where she studied screenwriting, staying on top in all of her classes. As a result, she was awarded the Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship which helped give her the exposure and recognition to kickstart her career as a director.

Rhimes has helped create multiple shows and movies under renowned mentors, such as Denzel Washington and Debra Martin Chase, not all of which became successful. However, after adopting her daughter Harper Rhimes, she began working from home more, prompting her to watch more television. Rhimes was inspired to create a TV show pilot of her own, combining her experiences and inspirations to create ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ Little did she know, in doing so, she would cement her name in Hollywood forever.

Grey’s Anatomy has become one of the longest running and highest grossing TV shows of all time, as well as generating over $100 million in revenue from its merchandise. Its success has allowed Shonda Rhimes the finances and creative freedom to make other TV series, such as ‘Scandal,’ ‘How to Get Away With Murder,’ and new hit ‘Bridgerton,’ all of which keep viewers glued to the screen.

Her success led her to start ‘Shondaland,’ a production company created to give opportunities to overlooked actors, actresses and directors with bright futures. Her focus is women and people of colour, seeing as there is both racism and sexism deep-rooted in Hollywood. 

Rhimes has been an inspiration and a friend to many, using her success to uplift those around her. After working with Rege-Jean Page in previous movies, she had noticed his talent. When his contract had finished, he intended to return to his home in the UK, where he would aim to land a new job, of which there was no guarantee. However, Rhimes trusted her instincts, which told her to keep him around. She recommended him for the role of the Duke of Hastings in her new project, Bridgerton. His skills, along with Rhimes’ intuition, have led to Page now being recommended for the role of history’s first ever black James Bond, along with countless other contract offers and jobs available to him. 

Rhimes’ ability to recognize, create and empower talent has resulted in her becoming one of the most well-decorated producers in the world. In 2017, she became the third black woman in history to join the TV Hall of Fame, amongst the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Diahann Carroll. Additionally, her wide array of awards include the TV Land Future CLassic Award for Grey’s Anatomy, Glamour Woman of the Year Award in 2007, and the DGA Diversity Award, amongst many others.

Despite the wealth and power Rhimes has accumulated, she remains dedicated to her initial objective: showing people the power of their stories, but more importantly, enlightening people on the power they have to change them.

“Power is not power if you don’t know you have it.”