As the creator of numerous hit television shows, Shonda Rhimes has become one of Hollywood’s leading advocates for women. From Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal, Rhimes’ Shondaland production company employs and empowers women throughout the industry so they may pursue and achieve their goals. But now, in partnership with Dove, Rhimes promises to lend her voice and her talents in an effort to help amplify young girls’ concerns and build the self-esteem they need to succeed.
Girl Collective, an extension of Dove’s long-running Self-Esteem Project, acts as a sisterhood that builds body confidence and challenges beauty ideals for all women and girls. By tackling the issues girls face today and creating real solutions, Girl Collective aims to empower the next generation of young women to reach their full potential.
At the Girl Collective launch event, Rhimes addressed the media’s ineptitude in her keynote address: “Media does an awful job of showing real people on television,” she said. “The girls we see online, in TV, in films — they don’t often reflect what is real. They don’t reflect you.”
“Now, I’m well aware that at your age, outside voices can influence how you feel about yourself and how you see yourself. They can cause you to ask, ‘Am I pretty?’ or ‘Am I too skinny?’ or ‘Am I too fat?’ or ‘Is my skin too dark?’ or ‘Am I pretty if I’m wearing glasses?’ Which is enough already. Can you all say that with me? Enough already,” Rhimes added. “If you do not define yourself, I guarantee you, someone else or something else will define you, for you, and that’s no good.”
As Rhimes recently told PEOPLE, her experiences with Girl Collective have allowed her to acknowledge and address her own past insecurities.
“I used to be one of those people who needed to have makeup on, but I’ve stopped wearing makeup every day, and have become really comfortable with my bare face, which is fascinating,” she explained. “You would think that you’d become more comfortable with it way earlier on, but, no. Now I spend more time examining it, in that sense of what do I love about my face and what do I love about myself. I feel really good about not feeling like I need a mask — and I feel like it’s really good for my daughters to see.”
Rhimes also shared what it takes for her to reach peak confidence amid all the criticism.
“I think it’s a process. And part of the first step is understanding that the words you say to yourself matter. So for me, it was really about figuring out what I believed about myself,” she said. “Luckily, my father said every day at least twice a day, ‘the only limit to your success is your imagination.’ So much so that I truly believed it. Those things, the more you say them, the more true they become.”
“I used to say ‘I am going to take over the world through television. And at first I said it in a joking way, but after a while, it started to feel really true,” Rhimes added. “It depends on how often you say it, how much you believe it and how much you want to believe it. But, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen overnight, or that it’s easy. Nothing that matters is easy.”
For Rhimes, this experience with Girl Collective has also empowered her to engage in difficult discussions about society’s beauty standards and self-esteem with her three daughters.
“This generation, Gen Z, is a generation that has grown up spending more time looking at their selfies than they have looking at their own faces in the mirror,” she told POPSUGAR. “It’s really a hard thing to deal with, because this is the Instagram generation and we [as parents] do have to deal with that.”
“I try to look at what they watch, and I try to talk to them about who they are and what’s OK,” Rhimes explained. “My 5- and 6-year-old probably get a lot of lectures that they wish they weren’t getting. But I also think it’s important to just be open and honest and have dialogues and conversations. That’s where people have gone wrong lately, I think; we’re so busy looking at our screens and we’re not having conversations.”
Ultimately, Rhimes notes that it’s never too early to start telling your kids that they’re beautiful, that they’re interesting, and that they’re great because, by validating their worth at a young age, they will be less likely to buy into the images they’re being bombarded with on social media. Instead, they will recognize that they are enough and that their unique talents and appearance make the world a better, more exciting place.
“The idea that you would want to look like anybody else, period, should be a disturbing idea to you,” Rhimes said. “In a world in which everybody is trying to mold themselves to look the same, looking different should be a badge of honor.”