Los Angeles — Shonda Rhimes says she didn’t have to break through the glass ceiling to become a top TV show-runner because scores of smart, creative women before her paved the way.
The creator of “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away With Murder” thanked her female predecessors as she accepted the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award on Wednesday at the Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment breakfast.
“When I finally hit that ceiling, I think it just exploded into dust,” Rhimes said. “My sisters who came before me had already handled it.”
Former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing, for whom the award is named, confessed being “totally addicted” to “Scandal” and said Rhimes’ work reaches far beyond the small screen.
“Shonda has literally redefined the role of women in television, and in doing so, in society as well,” Lansing said at the breakfast.
“Scandal” star and pretend president Tony Goldwyn presented the award, while real first lady Michelle Obama lauded Rhimes via video.
Rhimes said she was honored to accept the award, “because this was a group effort.”
“Making it through the glass ceiling to the other side consisted of running on the path created by other women’s footprints,” she said.
The 23rd annual event, held for the first time at Milk Studios in Hollywood, also featured a tribute to Joan Rivers by Melissa Rivers and Sarah Silverman.
Rivers, speaking publicly for the first time since her mother’s death in September, described Joan Rivers as a woman who loved to make people laugh and conquered any fears she had to do so. Melissa Rivers said her mother helped open doors for the women honored at the Power 100 breakfast.
She said had her mother been at the event, “she would be beyond herself.”
“She would be sitting at the table beaming, while discreetly shoving croissants and silverware in her purse,” she joked.
Angelina Jolie was on hand to present scholarship awards to members of the Women in Entertainment mentorship program, which pairs female Hollywood executives with exceptional, but at-risk students. Two girls cried as they received full four-year scholarships to Loyola Marymount University.
Jay Leno helped open the program, which had traditionally been held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. A boycott against the hotel in response to the support of strict sharia law by its owner, the Sultan of Brunei, has kept Hollywood away from the legendary property.
Other stars attending the event included Sharon Stone, Portia de Rossi, Khloe Kardashian and Kris Jenner, and “Orange is the New Black” creator Jenji Kohan.
Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBC-Universal Cable Entertainment Group, tops the Power 100 list, which appears in the December issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.