A recent White House announcement is demonstrating once again that Shonda Rhimes is one of the most powerful women in Hollywood.
President Obama recently appointed the Black writer, director and producer to the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Rhimes, a Golden Globe winner and three-time Emmy nominee, is best known as the creator of hit shows “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice.”
She is one of two Black board appointees. Obama also appointed Frank F. Islam, a Black philanthropist and technology entrepreneur to the board.
Islam is the Chairman/CEO of FI Investment Group LLC (FIIG), an investment firm he founded in 2007.
The president also appointed financier David Rubenstein, Alexandra Stanton, international trade and business development executive; art gallery owner Amalia Perea Mahoney, and media CEO Walter F. Ulloa to the board.
“I am grateful that these impressive individuals have chosen to dedicate their talents to serving the American people at this important time for our country,” Obama said in a statement. “I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”
The Kennedy Center bills itself as the U.S. “national cultural center.” Located on the banks of the Potomac River near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the center is also a “living memorial” to former president John F. Kennedy, who was a champion of the arts.
The board of trustees is the governing body for the institution, with members serving six-year terms. The appointments do not require Senate confirmation.
“They as a group, led by the chairman, run the Kennedy Center…; they control the finances,” explained Center spokesman John Dow.
A graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Rhimes has been working her way through Hollywood’s ranks since the early 1990s. She served as research director for a 1995 documentary called Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream. Then in 1998, she directed her first short film, titled, Blossoms and Veils. From then on, the writing opportunities continued to flow—1999’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, 2001’s Crossroads, and 2004’s Princess Diaries 2. But it wasn’t until the 2005 breakthrough television series, “Grey’s Anatomy,” which was produced by Rhimes’ production company Shondaland, that the Chicago native really struck it big. And, since then, many audiences across the world avidly look forward to their weekly sojourns into “Shondaland.”
In addition to her singular impact on audiences, Rhimes has also had a significant impact on the entertainment industry—raising the profile of many actors and also injecting an element of inclusiveness that has been missing from film and television since their inception, observers said.
“Shonda is one of the most creative and charismatic individuals in the entertainment business today,” said Robin Harrison of the NAACP Hollywood Bureau. “Her artistic talents, which embrace diversity and inclusiveness, are assets that will serve the Kennedy Center well.”
In addition to her Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, Rhimes has been recognized with the Television Producer of the Year award from the Producers Guild of America, the Lucy Award for Excellence in Television from Women in Film, and won the Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series from the NAACP from 2007 to 2011 and again in 2013.
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