Shonda Rhimes may rip your heart out when she kills everything you love on "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal" and "How to Get Away with Murder," but in every other part of her shows (the parts where McDreamy doesn't die) and real life, she cares deeply about making sure all the world's women feel valid and represented.
That's why she's partnering up with Dove to create Real Beauty Productions (#RealBeauty), a campaign that will make short films based on the stories submitted by you — the real women of the world — to redefine what real beauty is.
I got the chance to speak with Shonda about this campaign, and let me tell you, this woman is as majestic as all us plebeians of Shondaland dream she is.
The video shows while she may be the queen of the behind-the-scenes world, she isn't shy in front of the camera.
In our conversation, she was just as well spoken and sure of herself, always pausing after a question to ensure she'd perfectly articulated exactly what she meant.
She never stuttered or was at a loss for words, but she was meticulous with the words she chose; she's a woman who knows what she's doing.
When asked what her personal definition of beauty is, she said,
Beauty really is a person at their best, feeling their best, sort of acting on all cylinders. Me on my best day is me at my most beautiful, I think, when I'm feeling great and I'm working my hardest, and I'm not really thinking too hard about other people's opinions or how I look or my flaws. My flaws, they become more beautiful in that way because they're just part of me.
Rhimes is the creative director of Real Beauty Productions, and she noted she's excited for this partnership given Dove's already stellar track record of showing real women as they are, completely un-retouched, in its ads.
You might remember one of Dove's previous campaigns where women described their facial features to a sketch artist. Then, people who talked with those same women earlier in the day gave the same artist their own description of each woman's face.
The resulting side-by-side sketches showed the women were much harsher on their looks than the people they spoke with were, exemplifying that we, as women, put so much pressure on ourselves to adhere to a particular type of beauty. And we punish ourselves when we don't fit that standard.
Shonda has been redefining what a beautiful, powerful woman is ever since "Grey's Anatomy" aired 12 years ago (this week, by chance), so this project was a perfect fit. She said,
What I loved about the Dove campaign, and what I thought was exciting about it, was this idea that they were going to find a way to take real women and ask them to go to Doverealbeauty.com, tell their stories about what they think is beautiful or when they find themselves most beautiful and what they think the definition of beauty is for them.
From there, Shonda and the Dove team will turn these definitions into short films.
"We're going to make these great short films/little movies for these women and have them be the center of them," she said.
She noted the importance of representing all kinds of women in these short films because being able to identify with someone you see in the media is vital to the plight of raising women's self-esteem.
It's hard to feel good about yourself when you don't see yourself being labeled as beautiful in your favorite TV shows and movies. Representation is key.
And Dove's campaign is aware of that. According to Dove, 69 percent of women don't see themselves reflected on screens.
With Shonda on board, Dove's gearing to change that. She said,
You're in Florida taking care of your kid, you're up late in Ohio, you're a teenager feeling bummed about something, you're going to see these [films], and these women are going look like you, or feel like you, or maybe they don't look anything like you, you're going to hear them say something that feels like something you've thought, and it's going to make you see the beauty in yourself, even if you're not feeling that beautiful in that moment in time. And I think that's a shared experience that's going to be really powerful for people.
For Rhimes, she feels the most beautiful when she's with her children. "Probably when I'm doing very simple things: When I'm hanging out with my children fully, when I'm having a really amazing conversation with friends or interesting people who have something to share," she explained.
Same, Shonda. Same. (Please note: I felt pretty damn gorgeous when speaking with Shonda. It's impossible to hear these words coming from a woman you idolize and not feel like you can take on the world.)
In the least surprising part of our conversation, Shonda said she also feels beautiful when writing.
A lot of times [I feel beautiful] when I'm writing because, let me tell you, that's me with my hair in this weird ponytail on top of my head, wearing pajamas and saying all the work aloud, but it's still, to me, I'm at my creative best. And I feel really good in those moments.
Yes, that was an exclusive look into Shonda Rhimes' writing process. I weep.
Rhimes' TV dramas make up the TGIT (Thank God It's Thursday) primetime block on ABC. And it's one of the most (if not the most) feminist block of television... ever. That's a big and important legacy to have built.
And with the Dove campaign, that legacy of female empowerment, inclusivity and honest portrayals of women is only going to expand. Shonda said,
It allows for a lot of really important messaging to get out there about women, and how people's self-esteem is, and how women feel about themselves and also talk about how important it is that all women be included in the definition of beauty. I don't care where you're from, I don't care what size you are, I don't care what color you are, I don't care what religion you practice, everybody should get to be included in that. Right now, there's a very narrow definition of what society considers to be beautiful.
On what she thinks is the most empowering thing a woman can hear, she said, "I think a lot of times the most empowering thing a woman can hear are the words that she says to herself, honestly."
The most empowering thing a woman can hear are the words that she says to herself.
I also think the other most empowering thing a woman can hear are any of the words of friendship and sisterhood and, frankly, honesty that go with being a woman. You know, if one woman tells another woman you know, 'Ugh, I had the worst day of my life, I feel like crap, I feel like a bad mother,' there's something empowering about that, only because you get to hear somebody else feel something, too. The same way when somebody turns to you, another woman turns to you and says, 'I think you look amazing,' and you don't take that compliment and turn it into a non-compliment on yourself, you just say thank you and take it in, that's empowering. The words women say to one another, no matter what they are, as long as they're honest, they are empowering.
It's easy to believe her when she says this, seeing as she's built a TV empire on creating a sisterhood of female characters who are real, honest and open with each other, sometimes brutally, but always unapologetically so.
The words women say to one another, no matter what they are, as long as they're honest, are empowering.
Rhimes wants this Dove campaign to show young women their beauty is unique and their own.
I think all of the women in [Dove's] ads are just astonishingly beautiful because they are as they are, and they sort of come as they are and they have this joy. That idea that will be shown, to be able to hear people talk about it, when they hear their voices, I want young women to look at that and say, 'I want to be like them.' Or, you know, 'I want to do something like they're doing.'
Shonda Rhimes' overarching message with the Dove Real Beauty Productions campaign? "I want people to feel less alone. And I want people to feel like their beauty is valid."