TheGrio's 100: Shonda Rhimes, Grey's Anatomy mastermind

She describes herself modestly on her Twitter page: “writer, mother, sleeper, dancer, baker, procrastinator.”

In the glittery crucible of Hollywood, home of an industry with a historic aversion to blacks and minorities in high places, Shonda Rhimes is the significant exception to the rule, a history maker by virtue of her relative rarity in the star-maker machinery. Creator, head writer and executive producer of ABC’s Emmy and Golden Globe winning Grey’s Anatomy, and its popular spin off, Private Practice, Rhimes is one of a handful of African-American so-called show-runners whose work bears the unmistakable stamp of its creator week after week.

In May 2007, she was named among the TIME 100, Time Magazine’s annual list of 100 people shaping the world.

“Overnight she went from independent screenwriter and single mom to a public figure, the guiding force and creative engine for more than 200 employees,” wrote Sandra Oh, one of the Grey’s Anatomy actresses. “And watching that introverted, creative and independent spirit struggle and learn so quickly to manage and balance and truly own all that power was like watching a butterfly emerge from its cocoon.”

According to, Rhimes’ company, Shondaland, has three new TV projects in the works. Years from now, Rhimes may come to be seen as one of the trailblazers in the industry, indicator of a breakthrough in the perception of what black and minority screenwriters can accomplish. As it is, she’s confounded the expectations of people within the industry and outside it, casting her shows with an independence that reflects an allegiance to story and character, regardless of race.

She explained her philosophy last December to “The thing I find scary and disturbing about television sometimes is that people think because you’re somebody of color you have to be referred to or defined by your race. It doesn’t really make sense because that’s not how I live my life, or how most people live their lives.”