Shonda Rhimes is a visionary writer and producer whose successful shows — her creations Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, which Rhimes executive produces — have changed the representation of women, LGBT people, and people of color on television. And on Wednesday, she accepted the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at the annual Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Breakfast.
The event was packed with powerful executives, actors, and previous honorees. Tony Goldwyn, who plays Fitz on Scandal, began Rhimes’ introduction — and gave way to a video message from first lady Michelle Obama, who called Rhimes “a friend.” (She also confessed to being a Scandal addict.)
Rhimes took the podium to a standing ovation and delivered a moving speech in which she paid tribute to the women who went before her and cleared the way for her to create groundbreaking television.
Here is her speech in full:
“When my publicist called to tell me that I was receiving this honor, I screwed up my face and I said, ‘Are you sure? Me?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And then I said, ‘No really, WHY?’
And I made him call and ask for some written reason why I was getting this award. Because I really and truly was worried that there might have been some kind of mistake.
I want to pause for a beat here to say that I don’t say these things to be self- deprecating and humble. I am not a self-deprecating, humble person. I think I’m a pretty fantastic badass. But I also think that The Hollywood Reporter Sherry Lansing Award is extraordinary — as is Sherry Lansing herself. So… no, really, WHY?
They sent a written reason why I was getting this award. It said many nice things, but the main thing that it was said was that I was getting the award in recognition of my breaking through the industry’s glass ceiling as a woman and an African-American.
Well. I call my publicist back. Because I just don’t know about this. I mean, I’m concerned now.