Posted May 5, 2014 by Hillary Wright in On the Ladder
Shonda Rhimes is probably one of the famous TV writers our time. Despite being a woman, and an African-American woman at that, Rhimes has broken through many barriers. In her early successes, Rhimes wrote the screenplay for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which earned actress Halle Berry an Emmy and Golden Globe award, and other films including Crossroads and The Princess Diaries series. Rhimes’s career is on fire now with hit TV shows Grey’s Anatomy, which is in its tenth season, political thriller Scandal, which just wrapped up its third season, and other rumored projects in the works.

Here are four career lessons from Shonda Rhimes career:

  1. Don’t give up. While she has had many successes in Hollywood, Rhimes has also had her share of rejections including failed TV series and scripts that weren’t picked up. The 2011 medical drama she wrote, Off The Map, was cancelled the same year.
  2. Know when it’s time to part ways. Katherine Heigl, who portrayed Dr. Izzie Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy, won an Emmy for that role in 2007. After her name was submitted again for Emmy consideration, she withdrew her name, citing that she didn’t believe she had been given “the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination,” seemingly throwing shade to the writers of Grey’s. Later in 2012, when Oprah asked Rhimes about the incident, she admitted that she wasn’t surprised but also replied, “When people show you who they are, believe them.’ I carry that with me a lot. It has served me well.” Rhimes released Heigl from her contract in 2010 based on an “agreement” she and Heigl supposedly came to.
  3. Using social media to garner a fan base is genius. Every week during brand new episodes, Rhimes, the writers of her TV shows as well as the stars of them hold live Twitter chats with their viewers and fans. (I know, because I’m one of the fans who live chats with them!) Engaging your fans, (or “gladiators” as the stars of Scandal call them) keeps them involved, thus keeping them watching the show.
  4. You can have a booming career and a family. Not only is Rhimes a working mom, she is a single working mom. She adopted two girls and had a third daughter via gestational surrogacy. And she has no spouse to speak of. The night she announced the arrival of her third daughter, she tweeted, “Life is good.#2shows3kids”. Rhimes continued achievements prove that although being a working mom may be difficult, it can be done.

About the Author

Hillary Wright

Hillary C. Wright is a legal assistant the law firm of Mattingly & Nally-Martin, PLLC in Lebanon, Kentucky. She is also a freelance writer who has written for several publications including Glass Heel. Hillary graduated from Campbellsville University in 2010 with a bachelor of science in Mass Communications (Public Relations emphasis) and a 2nd major in English. She writes about career advice and women and gender issues. She lives in Springfield, Kentucky. You can contact her at hcamillewright@gmail.com or on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.