The most powerful woman in television stepped away from TV to pen Year of Yes (Simon & Schuster, $24.99). Here are five things she discovered by saying Yes to nearly everything that once scared her.
RULE #1: Always Say Yes to You
Before her Year of Yes challenge, Rhimes was in a serious relationship with a man who adored her and her curves. Loved ones pushed the idea of marriage on her, but she was never excited about the thought of being a Mrs. She was also stressed out and often turned to food as an escape: “I am the fattest I have ever been. He doesn’t mind. He loves me. He’s an incredible human being. The more incredible he is, the more food I shove in my face hole. Everyone is happy I am with him.... Like my street value went up because a guy wanted me. You know what’s a bigger taboo than being fat? Not wanting to get married.”
RULE #2: Say Yes to Taking Care of Yourself
How did Rhimes drop 117 pounds? In the book she shoots down any notion that she went on a fad diet or had weight loss surgery. She turned to her physician and said, “I don’t wanna be fat anymore. Help. Me.” Next Rhimes looked to trainer Jeanette Jenkins. She also said Yes to drinking 64 ounces of water every day. No food was off-limits, but she maintained portion control and ate only what she craved.
RULE #3: Say Yes to All Play and No Work Weekends
While saying Yes, Rhimes became extremely busy and a social butterfly. But the mother of three found her children were missing her. “I work because I like working,” she writes. “I am good at it, it works for me, it’s my comfort zone. Knowing, facing the fact that I was more comfortable on a soundstage than on a swing set was incredibly difficult to handle. It’s a difficult challenge for a hardworking, straight-A, obsessive perfectionist to leap into a lifestyle practice that requires everything to play.” But play she did, and she lived by her maxim of work-free Saturdays and Sundays unless there was an emergency or one of her shows was filming.
RULE #4: Say Yes to Your Awesomeness
At a media awards luncheon where Rhimes was being honored with other influential women, she noticed a pattern: Each woman, when her accolades were cited, either did a Me? or a nod or a nervous giggle. In her Year of Yes project, Rhimes was no longer having that per- spective. She says you should own your accomplishments and take compliments. She said Yes to accepting “any and all acknowledgments of personal fabulous awesomeness with a clear, calm thank-you and a confident smile and nothing more.”
RULE #5: Say Yes to Saying No
On the set of Scandal, Rhimes is the ultimate gladiator. At home? Not so much. In one of the most poignant and potent sections of the book, Rhimes discusses when one must say No to a friend. In the anecdote, she states how people make assumptions about her wealth. Rarely has a prominent person publicly shared the ways in which financial success does less to change you and is more about the people you surround yourself with. For Rhimes, the No gene wasn’t active in her early years of being one of Hollywood’s top creative talents, whose signing bonuses made the news. One friend in particular treated Rhimes as if the executive producer was a bank with endless withdrawals. In her journey to Yes, Rhimes gained greater clarity, and in finding her voice she said No to her friend’s request for money. Rhimes cautions that ending a friendship isn’t easy and that the key is realizing whether the person was ever a friend from the start. —P.H.B.
This article was originally published in the December issue of ESSENCE, on newsstands now!