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Shonda Rhimes, “highest-paid showrunner” in TV, wants women to demand what they deserve

“We need to set an example . . . Demanding what you deserve can feel like a radical act.”

Shonda Rhimes, “highest-paid showrunner” in TV, wants women to demand what they deserve
[Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for ELLE Magazine]

“I am the highest-paid showrunner in television,” Shonda Rhimes declared on stage at Elle magazine’s 25th annual Women in Hollywood celebration. It’s hard to think of someone who deserves it more. The creative powerhouse gave everyone who dared to go out on a Thursday night serious FOMO for skipping out on shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder. Then, after 15 years with her Shondaland making ABC must-see-TV, Rhimes left the network world, sparked a movement, and joined Netflix for an overall deal. When the news broke, it was reported that the deal was worth something in the neighborhood of $100 million. That figure may have been a little low. Or a lot low.

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As the Hollywood Reporter reports, on Monday night, Rhimes said that figure wasn’t accurate, though she would wouldn’t put a price tag on herself other than to confidently proclaim that she is the highest-paid showrunner in television—more than Ryan Murphy, her Netflix colleague who was also at the event and signed a five-year deal reportedly worth as much as $300 million, and Greg Berlanti, whose deal with Warner Bros. Television is worth a reported $400 million.

Rhimes brought up the money angle to highlight how rarely women show pride at their achievements—particularly financial ones. “Ryan Murphy, bless your amazingly talented heart,” Rhimes said. “When Ryan made his amazing deal with Netflix, what did he do? He shouted his salary to the world, and he did this gorgeous cover shoot and photo for the Hollywood Reporter, and he deserved every minute of it. I applaud him. When I made a deal with Netflix, I let them [report] my salary wrong in the press, and then I did as few interviews as possible, and I put my head down and worked. In other words, I hid. I’m getting this award for inspiring other women; how can I inspire anyone if I’m hiding?

“My point is,” she continued, “that we need to set an example, because I am awesome and we are awesome, which is another way of saying we have power. We are powerful women, and when we say we have power, what we are really saying is that we deserve to have power. We deserve whatever good thing it is that we are getting. Demanding what you deserve can feel like a radical act.”

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About the author

Melissa Locker is a writer and world renowned fish telepathist.

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