Lessons in Confidence from Icon Shonda Rhimes

Visionary.

Powerhouse.

Rule-breaker.

Creative force to be reckoned with.

Producer, screenwriter, and author Shonda Rhimes may be best known for creating the long-running TV medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” but she’s also an unmatched maverick in the entertainment industry.

As a young Black woman, she dove into the work of writing, producing, and showrunning—long ruled by white men—and quickly began churning out hit after hit. Her colossal talent and unstoppable drive propelled her forward to become one of the most influential and highly paid creatives in modern television.

Rhimes is most definitely an icon … albeit a somewhat reluctant one. As an introverted writer who prefers to stay behind the scenes, she took her time stepping fully into her iconic status. But now that she’s gotten a taste, there’s no turning back.

“Bridgerton” and beyond

Pretty much the minute Rhimes graduated from UCLA’s film school, she was walking the road to Iconic status. After a few years writing film scripts, she wrote her first TV pilot, sold it to ABC, and “Grey’s Anatomy” was born. Nearly two decades later, the show is still going strong.

And that was just the beginning for Rhimes.

“Grey’s Anatomy” spin-off, “Private Practice,” launched in 2007 and lasted for six seasons. Then in 2012 she scored again with “Scandal,” a soapy drama about a Washington D.C. fixer that brought in about $100 million per season in ad revenue at its peak. “How to Get Away with Murder” came out in 2014 and proved to be yet another winner from Rhimes.

With the 2017 move from ABC to Netflix came increased creative freedom, more money, and, of course “Bridgerton!” The deal was worth an estimated $150 million and as of this writing, Rhimes has signed an extension that likely boosts the value into the $400 million range (with bonuses). The steamy historical-romance “Bridgerton” premiered in 2020, and within weeks smashed Netflix viewership records to become the streamer’s biggest series to date. “Inventing Anna” was met with similar success, and other planned series include an adaptation of tech executive Ellen Pao’s book “Reset” which investigates sexism in Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile, Rhimes has been building her colossal Iconic empire under the name of her production company, Shondaland, and doing so with tremendous grace and vision.

The commercialization of Shonda Rhimes’s Iconic Brand

The empire that is Shondaland has many moving parts, all of which feed interest in Rhimes’ work, forge strategic partnerships, and bring in revenue. Her current net worth is estimated to be $140 million, and with a tantalizing slate of new shows on the horizon, that number is bound to rise. Let’s dig a little deeper into the various components of this multifaceted and ever-growing empire:

REVENUE FROM TV SHOWS: As I’ve mentioned, Rhimes dissolved her contract with ABC, trading in her $10 million base salary for a four-year deal with Netflix worth an estimated $150 million. She then upped the ante in 2021 for an additional five years of Netflix worth, pushing that deal into the $300-$400 million range. The new contract includes film, games, VR, branding and merchandising, live events and experiences.

On top of that, Grey’s Anatomy makes money on two fronts: Rhimes receives a producer’s fee for each new episode and also gets royalties from syndication: $120,000 per episode from LifeTime and $100,000 per episode from Netflix. As her other shows move to syndication, similar fees will begin rolling in.

BOOKS AND MEDIA: Details about the value of her book deal for Year of Yes, including any advance Rhimes might have been paid by the publisher, were not made publicly available … but since the book became an instant bestseller and was followed by an accompanying journal, we can assume it was lucrative. In her 2019 deal with iHeartRadio, Rhimes agreed to produce more than a dozen original podcasts that will be available on the network. No details are available on this deal either, but podcast industry ad revenue is estimated at around $1 billion and Rhimes’ shows include four commercials in each episode.

SHONDALAND.COM: Rhimes’ lifestyle website, shondaland.com, is hosted by Hearst Magazines Digital Media’s proprietary content platform MediaOS where it can leverage syndication opportunities across Heart’s properties like Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire. Collectively, these properties are visited by more than 200 million users a month. Rhimes and Hearst have collaborated on creating custom programs for advertisers, as well as monetizing content on the site.

MASTERCLASS: Although MasterClass.com doesn’t share its numbers, there’s no doubt that Rhimes’ class on Writing for Television has reached millions. Instructors are paid about $100,000 upfront when they begin working with MasterClass, then receive 30 percent of the revenue their classes generate.

REAL ESTATE: Rhimes dabbles in real estate, too. ​​In 2010, she snapped up an 8,300-square-foot home in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park for $5.6 million. It sold in 2019 for $7.16 million. She still owns an 8,400-square-foot Elmer Grey-designed mansion ($8.8 million in 2014), a 1920s Spanish-style duplex ($1.66 million in 2007), and an English country manor house ($4.6 million in 2017), all in the greater Los Angeles area. She expanded her portfolio to the East Coast in 2018 when she bought an $11.75 million two-bedroom penthouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Multiple wealth streams, all funneled into a cohesive Iconic empire. Rhimes has built an incredible base, and I’m sure she’ll continue to add to her portfolio as the years tick by.

Of course, her iconic status isn’t solely defined by her multi-armed empire. What else makes this powerhouse writer a true legend?

The confident introvert

Now Shonda Rhimes is a self-described introvert, but she’s also become an outspoken champion for women who brag. One of the most iconic things about her is that she’s the absolute best in the world at what she does, and she OWNS it.

Rhimes has never been shy about her talent and her worth, a trait that ruffles many feathers. Hollywood, like many industries, prefers that women be humble and quiet instead of proudly owning their accomplishments.

Fortunately, Rhimes doesn’t care what Hollywood wants her to do or be.

She knows she’s colossally talented and deserving of both praise and recognition.

“I never worried that I deserve the money,” Rhimes told Forbes. “I deserve every penny I make. . . . I always find these young women who have been conditioned to believe or to speak of themselves in ways that make them smaller. It drives me bonkers.”

Her talent and success have earned her dozens of awards from a wide variety of venues. 2007 saw Rhimes being named one of TIME magazine’s 100 People Who Help Shape the World. She has also won a Golden Globe, was nominated for three Emmy Awards, and has raked in multiple awards from the Writers Guild of America, Producers Guild of America, and Directors Guild of America throughout her multi-decade career.

And she never dismisses her success as the result of timing or knowing the right people or anything circumstantial.
She credits herself, and rightly so.

In Year of Yes, she writes, “I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.”

And possibly my favorite quote from Rhimes EVER is part of her acceptance speech for the Luminary Award at ELLE’s Women in Hollywood event. She said, “I will not hide. I am going to brag. I am the highest paid showrunner in television … I tell you this for two reasons. One, I’m awesome. And I work with a ton of other equally awesome women. And women do not brag enough.”

Too right. Men brag all the time and never get any flak for it, but when a woman has the audacity to say she earns big or is proud of her success? She gets side-eye and derision as her reward. I love Shonda Rhimes for stepping up and calling out this inequity. Women should be just as free as men to shout their triumphs from the rooftops, and happily tell the world about their well-deserved prosperity.

You can read more of her inspiring speech right here, and see exactly how she uses her platform to spread her revolutionary message while standing tall in her Iconic presence. Absolutely everything Rhimes does is aligned with her strong sense of integrity.

I’m in awe of her vision, talent, and relentless belief in her ability to achieve anything she sets her mind to.

I can’t wait to see what this fearless visionary tries next on her Iconic journey.

Play big. Become Iconic. Build your Iconic Empire.

Kathryn

P.S. Want to dig deeper into your own untapped confidence and start building an Iconic Empire? My new Masterclass, “Beyond Influence” is live right now. Here’s the link