Shonda Rhimes speaks at TED2016 - Dream, February 15-19, 2016, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman
Shonda Rhimes speaks at TED2016 – Dream, February 15-19, 2016, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada. Image by Bret Hartman.

“Don’t let fear keep you quiet. You have a voice so use it. Speak up. Raise your hands. Shout your answers. Make yourself heard. Whatever it takes, just find your voice, and when you do, fill the damn silence.” -Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy, ABC

This year, ABC’s critically acclaimed medical drama Grey’s Anatomy premiered its fourteenth season. Since its launch in 2005, it has been nominated and won countless awards including Primetime Emmy Awards and Golden Globe Awards. Shonda Rhimes is behind some of the best-known dramas, acting as the showrunner for Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal. She has also produced other series like How to Get Away with Murder, Off the Map, and The Catch.

In 1970, Rhimes was born in Chicago, Illinois. Her inspiration for hospital environments started when she began volunteering at a hospital in high school. She attended Dartmouth College where she majored in both English and film studies, participated in the Black Underground Theater Association, and wrote for the college newspaper.

After graduating from college, Rhimes lived in Hollywood with the hope of becoming a screenwriter. During the day, she worked as an office administrator and as a counselor at a job center. In 2001, Rhimes wrote Crossroads, the debut film of Britney Spears. Following her work on that film, she worked on other films, including the sequel to Disney’s The Princess Diaries.

In an interview with NPR, Rhimes reflected on the pressure of being a woman of color working in television. As she explained, “Now I’m in a place where I feel like it’s not a thing that’s pressing on me anymore, I don’t look at in that way; but when it first started, it really did make me a workaholic. It made it impossible for me to feel like I could let up on myself ever.”

Rhimes is now a successful writer and producer of countless prime time shows. In 2007, Rhimes was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 People Who Help Shape the World. In 2015, she published her first book, a memoir, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own PersonJust this year, Rhimes signed on with Netflix with the promise of new shows in the works. Rhimes has carved a place in the world of television, particularly for black female leads, and is a writer worth remembering and celebrating during Black History Month.