Shonda Rhimes discloses her 'secret' struggle

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Shonda Rhimes' Secret Struggle: 'I Always Said No'


Shonda Rhimes -- the woman behind some of the most memorable couples and cherished shows on TV. She can make us sad, angry and happy, all in one scene.

Yet, the 45-year-old production genius behind three hit ABC series had a secret.

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"I always said no to everything. I went to work and came home, and that was it," she told ABC.

That seclusion, she writes in her new book "Year of Yes," is partially a result of the pressure she felt as the first black woman running major prime-time shows.

And if that wasn't enough for Rhimes, she also felt the pressure for "Scandal" star Kerry Washington: "If the first network drama with an African-American leading lady in 37 years didn't find an audience, who knows how long it would take for another to come along?"

PHOTOS: Shonda Rhimes and famous colleagues
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Shonda Rhimes discloses her 'secret' struggle
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Producer Shonda Rhimes attends ABC's TGIT premiere event on September 26, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
Creator/Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes speaks onstage during the "Greyâs Anatomy,â âScandal,â and âHow to Get Away with Murder" panel at the Disney/ABC Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 21: Producer Shonda Rhimes (L) and actress Kerry Washington attend the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 21, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Producer Shonda Rhimes attends the 8th annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 19, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Producer Shonda Rhimes attends the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 22, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
CENTURY CITY, CA - FEBRUARY 14: Actor Scott Foley (L) and honoree Shonda Rhimes pose during the 2015 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 14, 2015 in Century City, California.(Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 13: (L-R) Actress Lena Dunham, ELLE, Editor-in-Chief, Robbie Myers and writer/producer Shonda Rhimes attend ELLE's Annual Women in Television Celebration on January 13, 2015 at Sunset Tower in West Hollywood, California. Presented by Hearts on Fire and Olay. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for ELLE)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - SEPTEMBER 30: Shonda Rhimes receives the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre on September 30, 2014 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
EDGARTOWN, MA - AUGUST 19: (L-R) Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Shonda Rhimes attend the Root 100 2014 List Release Reception on August 19, 2014 in Edgartown, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images for The Root)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Robin Roberts gets a behind-the-scenes look at 'Shondaland' - Shonda Rhimes and her stable of hit series for ABC Television, which will air on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, starting Thursday, Sept. 18 (7-9am, ET). (Photo by Todd Wawrychuk/ABC via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 11: Writer/producer Shonda Rhimes (L) with actress Kerry Washington, Lucy Award for Excellence in Television recipient, attend Women In Film 2014 Crystal + Lucy Awards presented by MaxMara, BMW, Perrier-Jouet and South Coast Plaza held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on June 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Women In Film / MaxMara)
CENTURY CITY, CA - JANUARY 25: Producer Betsy Beers (L) and writer/producer Shonda Rhimes accept the Diversity Award onstage at the 66th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 25, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DGA)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Actor Tony Goldwyn and Producer Shonda Rhimes attend the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600) Presents The 51st Annual Publicists Awards Luncheon at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on February 28, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 02: Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers at The Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences 'Welcome To ShondaLand: An Evening With Shonda Rhimes & Friends' held at The Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre on April 2, 2012 in North Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alexandra Wyman/WireImage)
Television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, addresses the audience after receiving the W.E.B. Du Bois medal during ceremonies, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. The Du Bois Medal is Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Actor, talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, center left, and television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, right, embrace on stage during the W.E.B. Du Bois medal award ceremonies, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. The Du Bois Medal is Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. Winfrey and Rhimes both received the medal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
From left, Tony Goldwyn, Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes pose backstage at the 44th Annual NAACP Image Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 18: Director/Producer Shonda Rhimes receives the Elenor Roosevelt Award at the 10th Annual Global Women's Rights Awards at Pacific Design Center on May 18, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/WireImage)
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The other factor that made the successful head of Shondaland retreat from the spotlight was an inherent fear of appearing on live television. Rhimes said she realized what was going on when her sister pointed out her tendency to always say no.

Hence her "Year of Yes." The first thing she said yes to? A taped appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," which helped the late-night show beat Jimmy Fallon's ratings for the first time.

Then it was her famous Dartmouth College commencement speech, which proved Rhimes' staying power to any non-believers out there and showed us the woman behind the curtain we wanted to see.

Shonda can put those fears of failing behind her. After all, Viola Davis became the first African-American to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama for her role in "How To Get Away With Murder" -- a show Rhimes executive produced.

Take a walk down memory lane with some of Meredith and Derek's most adorable moments on "Grey's Anatomy":

15 PHOTOS
Meredith and Derek Grey's Anatomy
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Shonda Rhimes discloses her 'secret' struggle
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 19: GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Staring at the Sun' - The O'Malley Family visits George at the hospital, Meredith is determined to have a more positive outlook on life, Derek and Addison strive for a civil relationship, and Richard endeavors to reunite with his wife, Adele, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Karen Neal/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Time Has Come Today' - The doctors of Seattle Grace help Izzie cope with the loss of her fiancé, Denny, and her decision to quit the internship program. Meredith must decide what the future holds after her hospital liaison with Derek. The Chief is confronted by his wife, Adele, after spending the night in his office, and George seeks relationship advice from a surprising source, on the season premiere of 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ron Tom/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'I Want You With Me' - 'Grey's Anatomy' returns for its monumental tenth season with a two-hour event, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. In the second hour, 'I Want You With Me' (10:00-11:00 p.m.), the fight continues to save those affected by the storm, Callie makes a bold decision regarding her relationship, and the doctors come together upon receiving devastating news. (Photo by Danny Feld/ABC via Getty Images) PATRICK DEMPSEY, ELLEN POMPEO
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 08: GREY'S ANATOMY- 'Here Comes the Flood' - A plumbing leak becomes a deluge and wreaks havoc at Seattle Grace, as the Chief attempts to implement new teaching policies and George tries to retake his residency exam; meanwhile Derek hopes to move the roommates out of Meredith's house, to their surprise, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 17: GREY'S ANATOMY - 'The Becoming' - The nurses' objections to McSteamy's trysts lead to the instating of a new 'date and tell' policy. Meanwhile news of Burke's latest career achievements force Cristina to face her feelings for her ex, Meredith and Derek admit a veteran soldier into their clinical trial, and Callie turns to Sloan in her time of need, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, MAY 8 (9:00-10:02 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Vivian Zink/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Can't Fight Biology' - Things are hostile on all fronts when a visit to the obstetrician results in some disturbing news for Meredith and Derek, and Lexie loses it when she notices Meredith and April getting closer. Meanwhile a car crash brings in multiple traumas and Jackson tries using his physical attributes to get ahead in the operating room, while Cristina's self-doubt carries outside of the hospital and into her house hunting with Owen, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, OCTOBER 14 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images) PATRICK DEMPSEY, ELLEN POMPEO
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 28: GREY'S ANATOMY - 'There's No 'I' in Team' - Bailey heads up a team of surgeons performing a 'domino procedure' in which each surgery hinges on the one preceding it; Derek gets sole credit for the brain tumor study he did with Meredith; Lexie goes to great lengths to have George notice her romantically, and Sloan counsels a desperate Callie on the ways of love, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Shock to the System' -- After weeks of concealing the fact she was pregnant and miscarried, Meredith at last tells Derek and is finally cleared to return to her surgical duties in the wake of the hospital shooting spree; Cristina experiences post-traumatic stress disorder in the midst of an operation; and Bailey refuses to let Alex operate until he agrees to have the bullet in his chest removed, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images) PATRICK DEMPSEY, ELLEN POMPEO
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 08: GREY'S ANATOMY- 'Here Comes the Flood' - A plumbing leak becomes a deluge and wreaks havoc at Seattle Grace, as the Chief attempts to implement new teaching policies and George tries to retake his residency exam; meanwhile Derek hopes to move the roommates out of Meredith's house, to their surprise, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 15: GREY'S ANATOMY - 'What a Difference a Day Makes' - As Meredith, Derek and all of their friends prepare for the big wedding, a group of college students, injured in a car crash as they were heading to their graduation ceremony, is admitted to the ER. Meanwhile, Izzie fears the worst when she begins experiencing familiar symptoms, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, MAY 7 (9:00-10:02 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Scott Garfield/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Superfreak' - When Derek receives an unexpected and unwelcome visit from his estranged sister, Amelia, issues between the siblings -- both past and present -- come to the surface; the Chief tries to help Alex when he notices that he's refusing to use the elevators after his near-fatal shooting; and Meredith and Derek continue their efforts to ease Cristina back into surgery after her post-traumatic stress, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images) PATRICK DEMPSEY, ELLEN POMPEO, CATERINA SCORSONE
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Time Has Come Today' - The doctors of Seattle Grace help Izzie cope with the loss of her fiancé, Denny, and her decision to quit the internship program. Meredith must decide what the future holds after her hospital liaison with Derek. The Chief is confronted by his wife, Adele, after spending the night in his office, and George seeks relationship advice from a surprising source, on the season premiere of 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ron Tom/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - ABC's 'Grey's Anatomy' stars Ellen Pompeo as Dr. Meredith Grey and Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Derek Shepherd. (Bob D'Amico/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 28: GREY'S ANATOMY - 'There's No 'I' in Team' - Bailey heads up a team of surgeons performing a 'domino procedure' in which each surgery hinges on the one preceding it; Derek gets sole credit for the brain tumor study he did with Meredith; Lexie goes to great lengths to have George notice her romantically, and Sloan counsels a desperate Callie on the ways of love, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)
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