Shonda Rhimes believes every woman is beautiful. Every single one. And she believes each woman deserves to define beauty for herself.
“I think everyone has the innate quality to be confident,” she says. “I think the problem is the images that people have been seeing on entertainment and media have been providing a very one-sided definition of what beauty can be.”
That’s why the writer and showrunner, who brought Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy to the small screen, partnered with Dove earlier this year to become creative director of the brand’s new Real Beauty Productions.
“I think everyone has the innate quality to be confident.”
The studio launched a campaign in March asking people to tell them about a woman who “expands the definition of beauty.” More than 3,700 submissions poured in between April and September. Rhimes chose three women to profile from those entries, and found herself in awe of their confidence.
“Part of why I chose them was not just the idea that they represent different women, but in a weird way they all have in common this absolute strength and confidence in being who they are,” Rhimes says.
The final installment of this year’s series debuted Tuesday night.
In the film, Diana Wright, a fifth-grade teacher, mom and wife, talks candidly about becoming an amputee, how she tries to build confidence in her students and two daughters, and why she pushed herself to regain the physical abilities she possessed prior to the accident that changed her life.
The film captures Wright putting on her prosthetic leg, spending time with her daughters, lifting weights at the gym, and running against a city skyline.
“I’m constantly letting [students] know that beauty is pushing forward and not giving up,” she says. “The impact that I hope to have on the children is that they don’t give up.”
Rhimes was struck by Wright’s determination to see her circumstances as a “teachable moment.”
“I kept wishing that I had that kind of strength, that I had that kind of spirit inside me,” Rhimes says. “That, to me, felt extraordinary.”
The two previous films (embedded below) are similarly uplifting — and have racked up more than 7 million views on YouTube.
While Rhimes wouldn’t comment on whether her partnership with Real Beauty Productions will continue after this series — “I don’t like spoilers” — she says her forthcoming website Shondaland.com will focus on women in a realistic way that feels empowering to people.
The site is described as a place for “the warrior in all of us” and according to Entertainment Weekly will serve as a digital storytelling platform with original content. Rhimes says it’s less of a “lifestyle” site and more about life. It’s set to debut on Sept. 18.
Rhimes isn’t shy about calling Hollywood’s portrayal of women a “strange, abnormal falsehood.” She says the films she’s made through her partnership with Dove have just been one way to counteract the idea that there’s only a single kind of beauty.
“Those are the women I think are role models and I think are interesting,” says Rhimes, “women who teach women to define their beauty for themselves.”