Shonda Rhimes Is My Role Model (and I’ve Never Seen a Shondaland Show)

shonda rhimes role model girl boss

I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve never seen an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve never seen Private Practice, or Scandal, or How to Get Away with Murder, or The Catch. The truth is, I barely watch TV. 

So why am I so obsessed with Shonda Rhimes, the creator of these shows? Why do I read every interview she does? Why have I suggested to total strangers that they buy her book? I’ll tell you why.

1. Shonda makes me want to get shit done.

Shonda Rhimes did not get “lucky.” She was not “in the right place at the right time,” or any of the other things people say to downplay their own successes. Reaching Shonda’s level of success is not about luck. She got where she is by working her butt off for years. Whenever I think of her, I push myself harder, because I know that’s what it takes to make things happen.

2. She’s an introvert, but she doesn’t let it hold her back.

I am such an introvert that I’d rather talk to my dog than talk to other people. (He never judges!) In her book, Year of Yes, Shonda talks about what a struggle it was for her to feel comfortable speaking in front of an audience. Seeing Shonda put herself out there reminds me that I am capable of doing the same, and that good things happen when you venture out of your comfort zone. 

3. She challenges herself.

Years before I heard about Shonda’s decision to say “Yes” to things, I developed a similar habit. I realized that if I’m afraid of something, the only way to overcome that fear is to face it head on. I was terrified to take an improv class, because I knew I would end up looking stupid. I dared myself to sign up for one — and I went, even though I was a nervous, sweaty mess. I probably looked stupid at times, but so did everyone else. (Looking stupid is an essential part of improv class.) By doing the things that scare me, Shonda-style, I’m slowly becoming a more courageous person, and I love that. 

4. Shonda is direct.

She probably gets asked for career advice on a regular basis, but as she told InStyle, “Let me fill you in on a secret: Nobody knows anything. I’m constantly encountering people who say that they wish they had it as together as I do, but the reality is that there’s nothing special that people in high positions know. We’re all working with the same tools, so just take chances and go for it.” I also love that when Shonda is pissed off, she says so, like when she responded publicly to a Twitter user who complained about “gay scenes” on her shows. 

5. She makes me want to be more “me.”

Shonda used to dream of being the next Toni Morrison, until she realized the world already had a Toni Morrison, and she was meant to kick ass at being Shonda. I don’t want Shonda’s life. (I’m a writer, too, but I’d rather write novels than scripts.) I want to live the Lisa-est version of my life, and I want you to live the you-est version of yours. We can visit Shondaland, but we deserve our own lands, too.

6. Girl power is real.

Shonda knows how many of us are out here, looking up to her. She knows how much it matters for young women to see her (and her characters) being true to themselves and accomplishing amazing things. Shonda is a living example of what’s possible for women in the entertainment industry — or any industry. 

7. Before she became a household name, Shonda wrote the Britney Spears movie Crossroads. 

This is a silly one, and I didn’t realize it until recently, but it made me love Shonda even more. I saw that movie when it first came out, and taught myself to play the theme song, “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” on my keyboard. I played it so many times, I probably still know all the words. (Am I secretly jealous that Shonda got to work with Britney? YES.)

Someday, I’ll probably get on Netflix or Amazon and have a serious binge fest watching everything Shonda Rhimes has ever made and finally understand why #TGIT is a thing. But in the meantime, I’m going to work even harder on my own writing. I’m chasing what Shonda calls the “hum” — that buzz of creative energy that comes when you’re doing what you love. I’m going to Lisaland. 

Image Courtesy of  Disney | ABC TV