Shonda Rhimes, Thursday night television's reigning queen, was honored with The Hollywood Reporter's Sherry Lansing Leadership Award this week, which recognizes remarkable women in the entertainment industry. But in her acceptance speech, Rhimes made clear that she wasn't sure why exactly she had won the award.
Offering some powerful thoughts on the leadership of generations of women before her, Rhimes promised she hasn't "broken through any glass ceilings" as a high-powered African-American woman in Hollywood. She argued against the notion of winning "a trophy for participation" -- or, in her case, for winning an award because she "woke up like this":
I know this isn’t an award because I’m a woman or because I’m African American. I know that it’s really about breaking the glass ceiling that exists in the face of being a woman and being black in this very male, very white town.
But I haven’t broken through any glass ceilings. [...]
If I’d broken the glass ceiling, that would mean I would have made it through to the other side. Where the air is rare. I would feel the wind on my face. The view from here — way up here where the glass ceiling is broken — would be incredible. Right? So how come I don’t remember the moment? When me with my woman-ness and my brown skin went running full speed, gravity be damned, into that thick layer of glass and smashed right through it? How come I don’t remember that happening?
Here’s why: It’s 2014.
This moment right here, me standing up here all brown with my boobs and my Thursday night of network television full of women of color, competitive women, strong women, women who own their bodies and whose lives revolve around their work instead of their men, women who are big dogs, that could only be happening right now.
Rhimes attributed her success to coincidences of time and place, saying she shattered her own portion of the glass ceiling "at exactly the right time in exactly the right spot." She also began her speech by saying she is neither humble nor self-deprecating, adding a bit more weight to her words. The whole speech is worth reading and is available at Medium.
Watch Rhimes' speech, via the Hollywood Reporter, below: