Shonda Rhimes Gets Real About Being Treated Differently After Losing 150 Pounds

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Rhimes says she felt people only saw her as valuable after she lost weight

Being reduced to a number on a scale or a certain “ideal” size is nothing new if you’re a woman. We’re constantly told, day in and day out, how much “happier” we’d be if we dropped X number of pounds. Or if we just try the latest fad diet. We’re subject to marketing that injects morality into foods (i.e. “clean eating”) and clothes that only look good on certain body types. It’s freaking exhausting. And no matter how talented, intelligent, capable, or accomplished we are — there will always be people who link our self-worth directly to our size.

Take Shonda Rhimes for example. She’s created binge-worthy masterpieces like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder. There’s pretty much nothing this woman can touch that won’t turn to gold. She’s a creative genius who’s given all of us a reason to tune into network television dramas again. She’s witty, inspiring, and constantly pushes creative boundaries in her work. She also recently lost a lot of weight. Which should be more of a footnote in the story of her life, except for the fact that we live in a society that rewards weight loss more than most other things.

In her new Shondaland newsletter, the creator of all things Olivia Pope and Meredith Grey opened up about how her recent weight loss lead to an onslaught of unwanted attention.

“Women I barely knew gushed,” she wrote. “And I mean GUSHED. Like I was holding-a-new-baby-gushed. Only there was no new baby. It was just me. In a dress. With makeup on and my hair all did, yes. But…still the same me. In one of my same dresses (cause why am I gonna buy a NEW dress when I can take this to a seamstress and she can just make it smaller? Who am I, The Crown? No, I’m from the Midwest, baby, and I come with coupons). Women gushed anyway. And men? They spoke to me. THEY SPOKE TO ME. Like stood still and had long conversations with me about things. It was disconcerting.”

Meanwhile, this woman has been creating hit television shows and racking up Emmys for, what, like 12 years now? And people couldn’t gush over that?

She continued,”But even more disconcerting was that all these people suddenly felt completely comfortable talking to me about my body. Telling me I looked ‘pretty’ or that they were ‘proud of me’ or that ‘wow, you are so hot now’ or ‘you look amazing!’”

As someone who finds herself on the opposite end of the spectrum in a case like this (hello, 35 pounds I can’t even blame on my 20 month old because this is post-baby-weight-loss weight gain), I know how shitty it feels when I’m with someone and they see an old photo of me and tell me how “amazing” I looked. You know what Susan? Yeah, I did. Because I was 22, depressed, didn’t suffer from PCOS yet, and survived purely on Ramen. Looking back, I know I didn’t love myself then. But I do now. Being thin did not solve any of my problems.

Bottom line: It would be nice if the Susans of the world complimented our awesome mom skills and work-related accomplishments before telling us we look “thinner” in whatever Target t-shirt is covering our upper arms on any given day.

Hell, if Shonda Rhimes can’t even get people to focus on her contributions to the world maybe we’re all screwed. She says that post-weight loss, she discovered that people now seem to be seeing her as a “person.”

“What the hell did they see me as before? How invisible was I to them then? How hard did they work to avoid me? What words did they use to describe me? What value did they put on my presence at a party, a lunch, a discussion? When I was fat, I wasn’t a PERSON to these people. Like I had been an Invisible Woman who suddenly materialized in front of them. Poof! There I am. Thin and ready for a chat.”

Ugh. UGH. While being in the Hollywood arena most likely magnifies the type of shallow mindset she describes here, a lot of us can still relate. Weight gain and weight loss are such intensely personal experiences, and why people feel compelled to pontificate on someone else’s appearance and health (concern trolls, we’re looking at you) is unfathomable.

Rhimes goes on to remind us that “being thinner doesn’t make you a different person. It just makes you thinner.”

Indeed. The scale can’t weigh what really matters.