Rhimes was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of a university administrator and a college professor. Rhimes resided in Park Forest South, Illinois (now University Park), with two older brothers and three older sisters. Rhimes has stated that she exhibited an early affinity for storytelling and that her time spent as a candy striper while in high school sparked an interest in hospital environments. Rhimes attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois, before enrolling at Dartmouth College, where she earned her Bachelor's Degree. At Dartmouth, she divided her time between fiction and directing and performing in plays. After college, she relocated to San Francisco with an older sibling and obtained a job in advertising. Rhimes would later relocate to Los Angeles to attend USC to study screenwriting. Rhimes was ranked at the top of her class and earned the prestigious Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship Award. Rhimes earned a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television.
Career beginnings: 1995–2004
After graduation, Rhimes found herself an unemployed scriptwriter in Hollywood. To make ends meet, Rhimes worked at a variety of day jobs, including as an office administrator, and then as a counselor at a job center that taught mentally ill and homeless people job skills. During this period, Rhimes also worked as research director on the 1995 Peabody Award-winning documentary, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream (1995). Rhimes made her directorial debut in 1998 with the short film “Blossoms and Veils” starring Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jeffrey Wright. A feature script Rhimes wrote was purchased by New Line Cinema. This was soon followed by an assignment to write the acclaimed 1999 HBO movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. It earned numerous awards for its star, Halle Berry. In 2001, Rhimes wrote Crossroads, the debut film of pop singer Britney Spears. Despite being panned by critics, the film grossed over $60 million worldwide. She then moved on to Disney’s sequel to its popular 2001 movie The Princess Diaries. Though 2004's The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) did not score at the box office like its predecessor, Rhimes later said that she treasured the experience if for nothing else – the opportunity to work with its star, Julie Andrews.
Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and other projects: 2005–present
Rhimes is currently the creator, executive producer and head writer of Grey's Anatomy. The series debuted as a midseason replacement on March 27, 2005. The series focuses on the surgical staff at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital in Seattle, Washington. The series features an ensemble cast with Ellen Pompeo serving as titular character Meredith Grey, who provides narration for a majority of the series' episodes. On May 16, 2006, ABC announced plans to relocate Grey's Anatomy from Sunday evenings to Thursdays in order to anchor the network's Thursday evening programming, by airing Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST. As Thursday has historically been the most competitive programming night among American broadcast networks, the announced schedule change for the series has been viewed by media analysts as another vote of confidence in the series from ABC. The show is still being aired.
Rhimes also created and produced the Grey's Anatomyspin-off series Private Practice. The series debuted on September 26, 2007 on ABC. The show chronicles the life of Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) as she leaves Seattle Grace Hospital for Los Angeles in order to join a private practice. The series features an ensemble cast, including Tim Daly, Amy Brenneman, Audra McDonald and Taye Diggs among others. The first season was shortened due to writers' strike and consists of only nine episodes. In May 2012, ABC picked up Private Practice for the 2012-13 television season with 13 episodes. The series finale was aired January 22, 2013.
Rhimes created a new pilot for ABC in 2010 called Inside the Box, a female-centric ensemble drama set in a Washington, D.C. network news bureau. The lead character was Catherine, an ambitious female news producer, who with her colleagues pursued "the story" at all costs while juggling their personal animosities and crises of conscience. It was not picked up by the network. In 2011, Rhimes served as executive producer for the medical drama, Off the Map, which was created by Grey's Anatomy writer, Jenna Bans. It focused on a group of doctors who practice medicine at a remote clinic in the Amazon. The series was officially cancelled by the ABC network on May 13, 2011. In May 2011, ABC ordered Rhimes's pilot script Scandal to series. Kerry Washington stars as Olivia Pope, a political crisis management expert who is partially based on former Bush administration press aide Judy Smith. The series debut aired on April 5, 2012.
She developed the period drama television pilot Gilded Lillys in 2012, which was not picked up to series.
Rhimes adopted her first daughter, Harper, in June 2002 and adopted another girl in February 2012 named Emerson Pearl. On September 18, 2013, Rhimes announced the arrival of her third daughter via Twitter. 
Rhimes was nominated for an Emmy Award on three occasions: in 2006, for a dramatic series and a separate nomination for writing a dramatic series, followed by a third nomination in 2007 for a dramatic series.
Rhimes was nominated by PGA awards for the "Television Producer of the Year Award in Episodic" for Drama in Grey's Anatomy in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and won the award in 2007.
Rhimes and fellow co-workers were nominated in 2006 and 2007 by the Writers Guild of America, USA for the WGA Award (TV) and won the award in 2006.
In 2007, Rhimes, along with the cast of Grey's Anatomy, was awarded the Women in FilmLucy Award in recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television.
On February 14, 2008 at the 39th NAACP Image Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium in California, Rhimes won "Outstanding Writing for a Dramatic Series" for the episode "A Change is Gonna Come" on Grey's Anatomy. In addition, Rhimes and fellow writer Krista Vernoff won an award for "Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series" for Private Practice.
Rhimes has gone on to win two more Image Awards. One was in 2009 for the episode "Freedom" (Parts 1 and 2), and the other in 2010 for "What a Difference a Day Makes"; both awards were for "Outstanding Writing in a Dramatic Series" on Grey's Anatomy.
In 2007, Rhimes won the Golden Globe for "Outstanding Television Drama" on Grey's Anatomy.