Shonda Rhimes Doesn’t Care About Your Beauty Standards

In your fantasy conversation with Shonda Rhimes, she knows exactly what you need to hear to fix your life. She gives advice 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 is inclined to share her tips for running an empire.

And that is exactly what happens. Well, it’s a Zoom call, but with the vibe of a genteel tea. As the world awaits the second season of Bridgerton and enjoys a resurgence of Grey’s Anatomy, Shondaland Audio has partnered with Dove’s Self-Esteem Project—a body-positivity initiative that provides self-esteem education to parents, teachers, and youth leaders—to create a new podcast, Dominant Stories With Jess Weiner. The podcast will invite celebrities, artists, and thinkers to reflect on one of their “dominant stories,” that is, the negative narratives we have about ourselves. You know the ones: “I’m just not lovable,” or “I’ve never been someone who’s good at taking risks.” The way we deny ourselves the fullness of life in the name of being realistic.

“You know what’s interesting is that I have learned 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 realize that they’re just days, they’re not facts,” says Rhimes. “How you feel does not necessarily reflect the truth of what’s going on.”

Pretending very much that we were old friends talking over drinks, I asked Rhimes to share how she got to this promised land of perspective and self-awareness. “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,” she says. 

“Everybody’s opinions stem from whatever is going on with them,” 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 that 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. For more, we caught up with Rhimes for another round of Glamour’s Big Beauty Questions.

Glamour: If you could change one thing about beauty perceptions, either on social media or in Hollywood, what would you want to change? 

Shonda Rhimes: I think I would change the notion that there is 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.

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