EXCLUSIVE! Shonda Rhimes: 'The Lack of Diversity in Hollywood is Embarrasing'




Shonda Rhimes is famous for creating diversity-driven shows like Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, but her newest project is more personal.

The inspiring showrunner has partnered with the beauty brand, Dove, to launch Real Beauty Productions, a new platform which aims to "shift the power of storytelling from Hollywood to the hands of real women and girls."

Check out the video above!

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Latina sat down exclusively with the inspiring storyteller to chat about diversity in Hollywood, redefining beauty, and why she's "addicted" to Salma Hayek.

Shonda, you are super busy with your shows and new platform Shondland.com, why did you decide to take on this project with Dove?

It's interesting because what came to me immediately is that it’s just like the work I do with my shows! Dove has always worked with real women, and it was a chance to go out and find real women and portray them realistically and authentically and to get a chance to redefine this idea that there’s only one kind of beautiful. I wanted to take it from this idea of beautiful is what someone else thinks of you and make it clear that beauty is what you think of yourself.

Do you get changed when you do work like this?

For me, it was a real learning experience. I truly felt like I came away with a very different perspective. I love watching women who don’t get to see themselves on TV very often have a chance to look at someone and go, 'I’m like that or I can be like that' and think, 'If they can do that, so can I!'

You inspire so many women! What would you say to a young Latina who wants to be a writer of showrunner, but maybe doesn’t know where to begin?

Determination will get you a lot of places. A lot of it is persistence, go get the lowest job in the lowest space in the place you want to be then climb the ladder as hard as you can. That’s what we all do!

Do you have any daily habits that you think are the key to your success?

If you wanna be something and you’re not doing something to that end every day, then you really don’t want to be it. I hear people say “I want to be a writer” all the time. It drives me crazy because a writer is a writer if a writer writes. So, if you’re not writing every day, then you don’t want to be a writer and you are NOT a writer and you can’t say that you are. So to me, it’s about that, practice the thing you wanna do as hard as you can and throw yourself into it every day. Show some actual commitment, to yourself frankly. The excuses are you saying really mean you just don’t want to do it.

What is one the thing people ask you the most?

Why is diversity so important? That’s the question I hate the most and what I get asked the most. I feel if you don’t know why diversity is so important, then I don’t know how to help you.

Is the lack of diversity in Hollywood onscreen and behind the scenes surprising to you?

It’s not surprising, but it is a bit embarrassing to me that media and the industry hasn’t grown past itself. Interestingly enough, what I find most shocking is that financially it’s just a giant mistake on the part of TV and movies and products to not portray—or each out to a multitude of cultures—instead of just thinking of one kind of person and one kind of interest.

Are you including any Latinx characters in your projects?

Yes, the lead of our new Grey’s Anatomy spin-off is Latina and I’m really excited about her. (Jaina Lee Ortiz, the former star of Rosewood.) She’s pretty great, and that will air in the spring. That requires a family and just being the center of something and that’s gonna be powerful. I also just think it's ridiculous that the way our country is laid out, that we are still fighting to make diversity onscreen happen.

I love that your characters are of color but not “cliché.”

When you’re the only one of something, the tendency is that you have to represent everybody. So then you end being a stereotype or a totem, or perfect, it’s definitely frustrating. I always say you can’t just have one black character because that character has to be nothing but the black character, and that’s their story all the time. You just want people to get to be people. What was great about doing a story about Diana for the Dove series was that we just told stories about women, and there’s nothing not universal about those stories. That is also the problem, this idea that we believe everyone can relate to the stories of white people, but white people can’t relate to the stories of other people.

How do your three daughters inspire your work?

For me, true power is them growing up in a world where they can be whatever they want. It’s important for them to feel free to be who they are in whatever way that is. 

Who is your favorite Latina heroine?

I was very obsessed with Callie (Sara Ramirez in Grey’s Anatomy) because she was a very fun character to write. Sara Ramirez had a lot of input and smart things to say and there was a lot of creation in that character; she really went for things. Once, we had a fight scene she had with her father when he was not willing to accept the fact that she was a lesbian, and they had that fight entirely in Spanish. I remember having the conversation with her about it, and her saying “I’m worried! Will everyone understand what we’re talking about?” I said, “You’re actors! They’re gonna understand every single word that you’re saying. If the two of you speak Spanish at home, why aren’t you having an argument in Spanish?" And they did this beautiful scene and it was really emotional. It was about the advocacy for her. How you do a scene and portray it authentically? And she came out, and was really fired up! And she said, “I need to things like this more often!” And I think we have to do things like this more often.So for me, she’s one of my favorites. I was heartbroken when she needed to take a break and left the show, but I figure we’ll work together again someday.

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That’s amazing! Anyone else?

I think I’m addicted to Salma Hayek. She’s fabulous!