When you think of a strong, talented woman, Shonda Rhimes immediately comes to mind. The creator of television’s top shows chose to guest edit Good Housekeeping’s first-ever Awesome Women Awards for September’s “Connected Women” issue, and according to Rhimes, she was “excited by the idea that there would be an entire issue devoted to celebrating the awesomeness of women.” For a full list of honorees, click HERE. Enjoy some select quotes from Rhimes below, including what character she most identifies with, and the evolution of Meredith’s Grey’s character.
Shonda on how believing in yourself can make you an Awesome Woman: “The only difference between a woman and an awesome woman is how a woman defines herself, frankly. And what you choose to do with your life. I think if you believe yourself to be an awesome woman you are an awesome woman and, in general, you behave as an awesome woman. If you don’t believe yourself to be one, then you don’t. It’s really about what you believe about yourself.”
Shonda on the secret to life—‘nobody knows anything’: “I wish every awesome woman knew that the secret to life is that nobody knows anything. And nobody is better than you are. People deal with so much insecurity and spend so much time thinking, That person is better, so I couldn’t possibly try this. Yes, you can! Everybody puts themselves in little pockets and holds themselves back, but there’s no reason to. Make your own space.”
On how she comes up with her character ideas from her hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal: “People always ask me where I get my ideas from, where I get my story ideas from – I don’t know. To me, these women, in my head, they are real, and I try to make them as real as possible. I try to make them people you want to be friends with, people you want to spend time with. That’s always my goal… It’s not a business; it’s not a factory. The secret sauce is that it’s just creative.”
On the inspiration behind Grey’s Anatomy character Dr. Meredith Grey (played by cover star Ellen Pompeo):“That’s just changed so much over many years. I think in the very beginning she was a little bit me, a little bit Betsy Beers, my producing partner – somebody very new, somebody starting out in a new job. I had no idea how to make television when I started this job. Betsy had a mother who had Alzheimer’s. We sort of had this mix of things we had been talking about. But really – she went to Dartmouth, I went to Dartmouth. There were just pieces of her that fell like that. But the rest of it is just the secret sauce.”
On the strong, competitive female characters on her shows and who they’re modeled after: “I keep getting asked how I write about such smart, strong women, and my response is, “What’s the alternative?” Weak, stupid women? They’re just normal people, not role models – if you’re aspiring to be like any of them, something’s a little bit wrong. You may want to dress like one or have her job, but do not aspire to be her!”
The reaction from fans that surprised her most: “I was very surprised when [Grey’s Anatomy character] Derek died. I think I was surprised by how strong the reaction was. And I think I was surprised because in Season 11, to have that violent of an outpouring for a character, in show that – for us, you start making a show and think, “Oh, you know, it’s Season 11.” You think that people aren’t paying as much attention. But to have it be that big of a deal to have Timemagazine write an article on how to mourn a fictional character. There was a lot of that and it was startling to me to see how much they were not coping. It felt like somebody real had died.”
On which of her characters are most like her: “I don’t think I could ever even say that. I think all of my characters, down to [Scandal’s] Huck who likes to hurt people, all of my characters are a piece of me to some degree because they come from my brain. There’s no way to have a character who’s not me. And I think every writer feels that way. They all spring from the same place.”