Both Chelsea Handler and Issa Rae praised the example of Shonda Rhimes as a large, mostly female crowd packed into Koreatown nonprofit the Art of Elysium on Wednesday, March 7, to hear about success from two women who have certainly found it.
Presented by LinkedIn, talk-show host Handler and Insecure creator/star Rae participated in a discussion moderated by Chip Cutter, LinkedIn managing editor. It started as a talk about defining success and molding careers but inevitably, in this age of #TimesUp and #MeToo, added the subjects of diversity and the current workplace climate for women.
On success, Rae defined it as "a moving goalpost — 'yeah, I made it, how do I do it again, keep that going?'"
Handler said she has learned that goals evolve and one's definition of success changes over time. Now that she can, she says, "I really try not to do anything [just] for the paycheck."
As for motivation other than money, Rae said, "I'm motivated by fear — 'I'm never gonna have this opportunity again, so I'd better say what I have to say while people are still listening.'"
Both women stressed the notion of following your passion and remembering that you are the only you out there. "I don't have a lot of skills," Handler proclaimed. "I talk for a living. If that's a career, then anything is a career, as long as you care about what you're doing."
On the eve of International Women's Day, asked to name inspirational women, Rae pointed to Shondaland's Rhimes, a pioneering black woman in television. “She made network executives realize that black people watch TV, and they want to see themselves. That was amazing," Rae said. "She was also one of the first people to take a chance on me and my own career. I love how many doors she has opened and has kept open.”
Handler agreed, pointing to "the environment [Rhimes has] created, and how she's changed the trajectory for women of color in this industry" by creating a show, Scandal, about a powerful African-American woman, played by Kerry Washington.
Rae said she's following Rhimes' example in her own company, Color Creative, "holding the door open," making sure "that all these discussions about diversity aren't just a trend" but a factor that is seriously considered in both production and hiring.
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"This is the time where everyone has a voice," Rae added. "There are so many platforms dedicated to giving the average person a voice, so you can speak out. In a moment you can be seen and heard. This is an opportune time if you have something to say; speak out, and magical things can happen.”
Handler's focus is on politics right now. "I feel like things are changing," she said of recent movements such as #TimesUp. "I think this is a referendum on the presidency. We wouldn't have had #TimesUp or #MeToo if Hillary [Clinton] had been elected."
Asked her goal for the near future, Handler didn't mince words: “To get Donald Trump impeached, and to get as many women elected in November midterms as possible. I think this is going to be the Year of the Woman ... and I’m so excited about the possibilities and the probabilities of what’s going to happen in November.”
On the topic of #MeToo/#TimesUp, Handler was clear: “You can’t have people going, ‘I’m so sick of this conversation.’ It’s like, ‘Too bad, buddy — it’s going to be over when you stop asking why it’s happening.’ That’s when it’s going to be over.”