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Shonda Rhimes: 'I'm not diversifying TV. I'm normalising it'

SPEECH: Shonda Rhimes

AWARD-WINNING writer Shonda Rhimes, who is the mastermind behind TV shows Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, says rather than crediting her with diversifying TV, she would rather be known for normalising it.

In a speech delivered at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in Los Angeles, Rhimes stressed that diversification was not her agenda.

“I really hate the word 'diversity'," she said. “It suggests something other. As if it is something special, or rare. As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of colour and LGBTQ characters on TV.”

The screenwriter was being honoured for her contributions to the medium with the Ally for Equality award.

“I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of colour, LGBTQ people equal way more than 50 per cent of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary,” she said. “You should get to turn on the TV and see your tribe.”

Rhimes, who has been applauded for the diversity of her casts, said it was important for her that when viewers turned on their TVs, they would “see someone who doesn’t look like them and love like them”.

“Because, perhaps then, they will learn from them,” she said. "Perhaps then, they will not isolate them. Marginalise them. Erase them. Perhaps they will even come to recognise themselves in them. Perhaps they will even learn to love them.”

The 45-year-old spoke of the overwhelming support and response from people who had been impacted by the characters she had developed and the hard-hitting storylines she has tackled.

“I get letters and tweets and people coming up to me on the street, telling me so many incredible stories.

"The dad telling me about how something he saw on one of my shows gave him a way to understand his son when he came out. Or the teenagers, all the teenagers man, who tell me they learned the language to talk to their parents about being gay or lesbian.”

Rhimes also gave the audience an insight into her upbringing that led her into writing.

As the only black girl in her class she expressed feelings of loneliness, a running theme she says is present in many of the stories she tells and at the crux of the characters.

“You are not alone. Nobody should be alone. So I write.”

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