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Women in Charge: Shonda Rhimes shares the empowerment and beauty rituals that allow her to take on the world

In your fantasy conversation with Shonda Rhimes, she knows exactly what you need to fix your life. She advises with the wisdom of a Meredith Grey voiceover, the wit of a Lady Whistledown missive, the quickness of Olivia Pope. The two of you are at afternoon tea or maybe a luxe cocktail bar, and she’s inclined to share her tips for running an empire.

And that’s exactly what happens. Well, it’s a Zoom call, but with the vibe of a genteel tea. Netflix released the second season of Bridgerton in March, and we’re enjoying a resurgence of Grey’s Anatomy. Shonda reflects on the negative narratives we have about ourselves. You know the ones: “I’m just not lovable”, or “I’ve never been good at taking risks”. The way we deny “You’re perfect exactly as you are,” Shonda Rhimes tells her three daughters. Here, the TV mogul shares the empowerment and beauty rituals she lives by. Words by Jenny singer the new beauty rules ourselves the fullness of life in the name of being realistic. “I’ve learnt to accept the idea that there are going to be days when I have these feelings about myself, but the older I get, the more I realise that they’re just days, they’re not facts,” says Shonda. “How you feel doesn’t necessarily reflect the truth of what’s going on.

“Honestly, as you get older you start to care less about what other people think. And learning to not care about what other people think is probably the key to treating yourself with more kindness.

“Our opinions stem from whatever’s going on with us,” she adds. “It doesn’t really have to do with the reality of what’s happening. Everybody has their own demons, their own fears, things about themselves they don’t like, so they put those out there into the world. They put them on you. But if you stop believing in what other people have to say about you and just let yourself be, you’re more likely to be happy.”

Some people have the gift of simply saying, again and again, that which is tattoo-able.

If you could change one thing about beauty perceptions, either on social media or in Hollywood, what would it be?

I think I’d change the notion there’s a standard. I think we celebrate people’s bodies far too much. I mean, we’re literally celebrating something people have no control over – or we’re not celebrating it, we’re shaming it. It’s fascinating that somebody loses weight and we’re either upset that they lost weight, like, “How dare you? You represented us!” Or we celebrate them for having lost weight as if that makes them a better person somehow. Or they have a beautiful face, so we celebrate the face that they were born with, as opposed to celebrating their accomplishments or kindness or actions.

To me, the fact that there are beauty standards at all is part of the problem.

What’s your favourite beauty ritual?

I’m a firm believer in getting as much sleep as possible and that there’s nothing wrong with a good nap. To me, that’s the best self-care beauty ritual you can do. I’m into face masks right now. My children find them upsetting! So, if I really want a quiet moment alone to think, I’ll put on a face mask or even slather coconut oil on my face and sit and have a quiet moment. I feel like I’m doing something for feel my skin and myself at the same time. I love a product! Almost any product works for me, but truthfully, good old coconut oil works every time.

What’s one beauty or empowerment rule you live by?

That beauty comes from within. That when I’m feeling beautiful, I look beautiful. And the other one is: bad hair, don’t care, meaning, it doesn’t matter what my hair is doing, how wild it wants to be, how crazy it wants to be or if it wants to be combed or not. It’s fantastic.

Which women inspire you most right now?

I’ve been in a bubble writing, but I’m inspired by women who create and do interesting things, such as Michaela Coel and Adele – I’m super-excited about that album. I find Mrs Obama endlessly inspiring. Katie Lowes, who’s just had her second baby and is doing podcasts, asks questions and reaches for things.

What ideas about beauty are you passing down to your daughters?

I tell my little girls, who are eight, nine and 19: “You’re perfect exactly as you are. This is how the factory made you, so you came out the factory perfect. Trying to change it isn’t worth the effort.” We talk a lot about not comparing your body to anybody else’s. It’s never about being pretty, cute, thin, curvy or whatever it is. It’s about how you’re strong – and the words I choose to use with them are crucial. I don’t like it when people say to my girls you’re pretty or somebody says, Oh, you’re so thin. No. They’re smart. They’re strong. They’re interesting. They’re funny. But nobody’s thin or pretty because that’s not something to aspire to.

This article originally appeared in Glamour’s 2022 May Wellness Issue. Grab your digital copy here.

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