Started From Scandal Recaps Now We Here: My Book Was Optioned By Shondaland
Two weeks ago, news dropped on Deadline.com that Shondaland To Develop Luvvie Ajayi’s Book ‘I’m Judging You’ As Cable Series. I was at the MAKERS Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes when this news hit the web and I lost my shit and my ability to focus. I had to step out the session I was sitting in to run around because adrenaline had kicked in, and the rest of the world finally knew what I had been sitting on for a while. Real Gs had to move in real silence about this, and it was the best news I have ever had in my professional life. It was hard to do but necessary.
But yeah. Shondaland and ABC signature got the rights to turn my debut book I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual into a cable series. It means together, we will do our best to have a show that is based on my book on a TV screen near you soon. It is the best collaboration I could think of and it is the best stamp of approval my book could have gotten.
Who knew that me writing recaps for a show I fell in love could lead to this? I call Shonda Rhimes my Fairy BaeMother, and it does not escape on me how AWESOME it is that I can call the Queen of Television someone who is an actual fan of my work. Let’s talk about how her and I even got here.
Exactly five years ago, I met Shonda Rhimes. She probably doesn’t remember because I was one of hundreds of people she met that day, and there is no reason for her to even remember it. I remember it because I blogged about the event, and the dope women I met there. It was the 2012 ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon in LA, which happened a month before Scandal premiered. I hadn’t watched Grey’s Anatomy or any of her shows but I knew her name. At that event, Shonda was being honored, and the president of ABC at the time (Anne Sweeney) was on hand to give her the award personally. “Normally, we give people a seat at the table. We gave Shonda the table.” This was no ordinary honoree; this was a queen, and from that day forth, I was a member of the Shonda Rhimes fan club.
A month later, when Scandal started, I was in front of my TV READY, and soon enough, the gladiators stole my heart and America’s regular heartbeat. When season 2 began on September 27, 2012, not only did I watch, I started writing recaps for it (here’s my first Scandal recap). I NEEDED to talk about this show, and my blog became the place that people used as their watercooler to debrief. My Scandal livetweets and recaps became a THING.
I’m not sure when Shonda noticed my work but she started RTing me as the cast and crew livetweeted along, and one night in 2014, she tweeted this, and I freaked out!
And I was like “OH SHIT. Shonda Rhimes knows who the hell I am!” And thus began our baehood. I had confirmation that the woman behind my favorite TV show knew me. 1,000 mufuggas couldn’t tell me nothing.
I went to the 2015 Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, 3 years after the first one I ever went to and 3 months after that tweet and Shonda was there. This time, I was like we need to MEET for real. The first time didn’t count at all. At the event, I ended up meeting Lupita Nyong’o (and she knew who I was. FATHA GAWD WHAT IS LIFE?). But at the end of the event, I saw Shonda at her table (where Oprah also was). I had to make a decision then. “Do I go up to Oprah? Or do I go up to Shonda?” Something in my spirit said “Shonda. You’ll meet Oprah another time. She’ll know your name then.” THAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR.
I go up to Shonda, and I introduce myself. And you know what this lady did? SHE EXCLAIMED THAT I WAS HER FAVORITE PERSON ON TWITTER. I coulda died right then and there.
How are you running the world and you’re still this humble and nice?? I coulda stolen away to Joseph’s stepson! It was official then that me and Shonda went together.
Last year, I was back at the ESSENCE BWIH (2016), and reconnected with Shonda there. I thanked her for writing the incredible book The Year of YES, and said how I read it in one sitting, over 3 hours on a flight. She put her foot and her heart in that book, and it was one of my fave reads of 2015. She in turn asked me how MY book was going. She was paying attention! I told her I was done writing and that I would love to send her an advance copy when it was done. She said she couldn’t wait to read it. She even introduced me to her sister as one of her fave writers on the web.
Floating wasn’t the word for what I was doing. I was on the level above cloud 9. 9.2? We then took what is now becoming an annual tradition: our selfie. And Shonda tweeted it and everyone freaked out.
Look!! Me and @Luvvie at @essencemag #BlackWomenInHollywood pic.twitter.com/mr0BR70cEG
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) February 26, 2016
No, it does not get old that the one of the most powerful people in television knows me and is happy to see me. IT DOES NOT GET OLD.
So when advance copies of I’m Judging You were ready a few months later, I sent it off to Shonda. I wanted a blurb from her to be on the cover. I was very clear about that. In May, I got an email asking if I was available to host a panel at the White House’s United State of Women conference. It was a panel on “Advancing Reel Change in Media” and I said yes. Little did I know the power of the panel I would be moderating. A couple of weeks later, I get the list of people and it’s: Gloria Steinem, Sana Amanat (Marvel), Glen Mazzara (Writers Guild of America), Judith Williams (DropBox), Amani Al-Khatahtbeh (MuslimGirl.com) and… SHONDA RHIMES. HA! Perfect.
Before the panel, Shonda tells me “Your book is on my nightstand. I read a little every night. It’s really good so far.” I had all the glee. I wanted her to blurb it but she is super busy so I didn’t even mention it. I was just happy she was reading it. The conversation on the panel was incredible.
My editor tells me the day after that if I want a quote on the cover of my book, I needed it in 4 days. I was like “CRAP. I shoulda told Shonda. I want HER on the cover.” I sent her an email and she replied like 5 days later because she basically tapped out of life. She wasn’t done with my book yet. GIRL I GET IT. It be like that sometimes. I totally understood.
My books go to print, and I’m getting ready for launch and the month before my book comes out, Shonda emails me and said she finished my book and here’s her blurb!
So on the day of my book came out (September 16), Shonda tweeted this image and told people to support my book. She went above and beyond and my gratitude overfloweth. Shonda didn’t owe me anything. Not a damb thing. She never did but she gave me so much. What I didn’t even mention was how she was guest editor of September’s issue of Good Housekeeping and she picked me to be a part of their 20 Most Awesome Women feature.
I don’t have the words to talk about how heartening it is to have someone of her caliber be one of my champions and cheerleaders. I’m a writer who lacks the words to talk about the feels. Great fortune, to be honest.
When I was writing this book, it wasn’t with the idea that it would be turned into a television show. I just wrote the best book I could, talking about the things that grind my gears about the world, and how we all need to do better. It was my manifesto, and the thing that 13 years of writing led to. I wrote this book with the intention to create something that would last longer than I would.
So when people started approaching me about THIS book possibly becoming a TV show, I was like “Oh snap. That’s dope.” Cuz look. Over the years, the feedback people have given me often is that I should write for TV. My voice and my humor would be good for it. Plus, as a student of TV and a consumer of a lot of pop culture, I know I can create some interesting stuff.
I walked into Shondaland last fall and my jaw dropped. I was there. THERE. I took this picture before I went into Shonda’s office. Because WHHHAAATTTT????
Surreal. SURREAL, yo.
We talked, we brainstormed. I was internally freaking out. I walked out the meeting, not caring what came from it. What happened was enough. I can’t be too greedy with these blessings. Surely, that would be too good to be true for Shonda to be for real about wanting to turn my book into a TV show.
It wasn’t too good to be true. My agents at ICM Partners hit me up shortly after to say “Shonda wants your book.” If Queen Rhimes wants my book, Queen Rhimes gets my book. BY THE WAY, Shonda is ALSO represented by ICM. That was purely a coincidence but isn’t that just perfect? Like… we go together so tough.
Anyway, over the last few months, Shondaland (which is backed by ABC Signature), we agreed on terms. Shoutout to MY dream team at ICM Partners (hey A-Team. Andrea, Ava, Andy), my manager Andrea Wade (Diamond Brand Amplification), my literary agent Michael Harriot (Folio Literary) and my attorney, Lisa Davis (Frankfurt Kurnit). WE OUTCHEA!
I had to be quiet and be stealthy. But I could not wait for the news to drop. It finally did on February 7.
WHEW. It was so good to see the news drop. And the internet went nuts! I had to keep my phone on a charger because it blew up.
Being at MAKERS was perfect, as I was surrounded by power women who are also a testament of what happens when we commit to bringing each other up. There, Bellamy Young (aka Mellie Grant from Scandal) happened to be speaking there. She gave me a warm welcome to the Shondaland fam and I coulda cried all the crocodile tears.
I mean. WHAT IS LIFE? How is this mine? How much praise and worship do I owe God? Just… awesome. Awesome. AWESOME.
Truly. Started from Scandal recaps, now we’re here. Today is the 5th anniversary of the first time I ever met Shonda Rhimes. And the 5th ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood event I’ll be attending. That is the event that spurred me to tune into Scandal. That is where I didn’t know I was planting seeds that would eventually lead to this. It felt right to reflect on this journey now.
I’ve spent the last few week thinking through the characters that will be in my TV show. First of all, OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST SAID THAT. But I can’t wait for you to meet them one day, hopefully. *crosses fingers* I went searching my tweets and found these 3. The oldest is 2012. iSweaterGAWD, my life is a series of tweets coming true. Of dreams spoken out loud coming to fruition.
When I tell you that dreams come true? I mean it with all my heart and spirit. My life and my work’s journey is a testament of it.
I’m excited for what’s to come, and to work with the entire Shondaland team (hey Betsy and Alison!).
This is so amazing. So happy for you! Can’t wait to watch and DVR your show!
This is amazing! *wall slides* Been following you on Twitter (both accounts) and reading your Scandal recaps for years. Thank you for continuing to be genuine and I’m so happy for your success. You’re doing the damn thing! Now we just have to figure out who’s going to write the recaps for your show 😉
I am Nigerian just like you,I av bin following your blog n I most say..I am truly happy for you…you r my hero…God I cant even begin to explain…I wud meet you one day luvvie…I will…n from a small nigerian girl who z dreaming n hopes her dreams come thru to you luvvie.. YOUR HEAD DEY THERE!!!!!!!
This is such an incredible story, journey…and it’s almost is if I had not doubt to your greatness and dope writing. Literally none. Congrats ain’t enough…but truly excited to support as your book literally comes to life!!
This is so exciting! I’m curious if there’s a chance you’ll also be acting in this show or if you’ll be writing for it exclusively.
I am so proud of you. I have been a follower of you for a long time you have been bringing me joy and life for forever and this couldn’t happen to a better person!!!!!
YES!!!! I am so happy for you and proud to be a fan. I’m looking forward to the series. Your dues have been paid love, enjoy the profits of your years of hard work.
Peace and Blessing on your life my love.
Luvvie, thank you so much for sharing your journey. It a truly inspirational blueprint for many young women of color.
So proud of you Luuvie!!!!!!!
The excitement I have for you is unfreaking real. I am so proud of you and you are definitely a testament to speaking things into the universe and working your ass off to make it happen. You are my BFF in my head.
Congratulations! That is the most uplifting and exciting news! You believe and practice it! It really works! Thanks for making us laugh and keeping it real. I love your page, and looks like Shondaness does too. Woo, good things happening for black women from Chicago. Notice that?
I am so happy for you and so glad that someone who makes me laugh out loud is going to have content coming to a screen near me very soon. Congratulations and best wishes!
So happy and proud of you!! ❤️❤️❤️
WHEW. I haven’t commented in a while, but haven’t stopped reading. I am CRYING at this blog post right now because I’ll never forget it. For many reasons. I have made a major personal decision for me and told a miniscule amount of people about it so far, and then I see this. As confirmation. I’ll tell you about it one day.
Overall, this journey was so inspiring to read. Whenever I described you, I note you as the hardest-working person on the internets, as one of the most persistent and tenacious people I know. All of that is still true. What is also true is that you deserve this. This is your moment. And I look forward to more wins from you. Congrats, Luvvie.
CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I was introduced to you by a colleague over a year ago and I’ve been a fan ever since. I love me some Luvvie!!! I wish you continued success and many more moments of meaning. Cheers from Boston!
Congratulations!!! I’m so proud of you!
OMG!! I soooo need LUVVIE to put a LOVE button on her post -hell WITHIN her posts and for the comments!! But I LOVE everything about this post
Congratulations to you, you amazing woman!
Why are you making me cry, sis? I am so full of J O Y for you and all that you’ve accomplished. Surely, you have been mightily blessed. Can’t wait for the series, and everything else that is in store for you. I feel like you’re my cousin and I’m so proud!
I am so happy for you! Thank you for being humble, appreciative and WORTHY! You are an inspiration!
This is soooo AMAZING! Good job Luvvie, and Shonda…all hail the QUEENS
Tears came down my face reading this. What clear, beautiful proof that hard work and a dedication to the truth in your heart will bring you exactly where you need to be. I AM INSPIRED
Praise God! So happy for your blessings as the result of your hard work!
Super proud of you, Luvvie!
So so so proud of you Luvvie!! As the official President of the Ugandan LuvvNation Chapter, I want to thank you for inspiring us to write, speak our truth and deliver our side-eyes with no fear or favour! Can’t wait for your book tour! We’ll be waiting for you! (Please bring tees and Judgy Pop badges to buy, coz they don’t deliver here yet).
Luvvie… I have followed your journey since 2007 and it is just so incredibly inspiring and shows what an incredible human being you are. I found tears just running down my face as I read this post. God bless you and Congratulations on all of your accomplishments. You deserve every single one of them and more. I wish you continued success, peace and blessings.
This is so amazing and inspiring. I am so proud of you as a fellow black woman from Chicago, who is also a Dolphin! I’m inspired. I can’t wait to see your name either! Love and prayers as you continue your journey <3
Wow, that’s all I’m saying speechless. Luvvie dream bigger since there is more to come. Congrats. It is been great going along for the ride. Your step by step progress is inspiring.
There are so many reasons to love this– for you personally and professionally, but also for us as a culture. Because make no mistake– our culture is in desperate need of renewal, healing, and YEP- JUDGMENT. There are some people who will never hear it and are totally lost souls, but some might be saved by hearing the judgment of Luvvie. Prophesy about when baehood goes bad! I swear souls will be saved and CheetoSatan will dissolve.
im here at work tryna not to bawl tears of joy at your testimony. You showed up and God showed out!
This is wonderful. You deserve all of it
You SO deserve this!! I’ve been a long time follower and i almost feel like your success is my success as well; I mean c’mon. SHONDa and I share the same sense oh humor AND I found Luvie first !! Don’t tell me I ain’t a “Bad B!” Talk about the power of attraction. You are a staaaaar gurl!!!!
OMG I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!! I could cry. I love that I have been following you so long that I remember most of those prophetic tweets and happy selfies with your heroine. Congratulations boo xo
“When I tell you that dreams come true? I mean it with all my heart and spirit. My life and my work’s journey is a testament of it.” — Awesomely Luvvie
I just printed these words and placed them on my vision board. Thank you for sharing you Black Girl Magic with me over the years. All the best to you and you absolutely deserve it!
This is so awesome and inspiring for other black women! Congrats!
I’ve been out of the mix and missing a lot of stuff. I’m glad I saw this. Congratulations, Luvvie! This is truly awesome. T
This post actually made me cry — as a follower and fan of yours for a couple of years now, I feel like I’ve been lucky myself (and inspired) to be able to watch such talent as yours be rewarded. Congratulations times infinity!
Congrats! Now we just need a pic of you, Shonda and the Scandal cast so we can all get our lives!!!
I could see this coming. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Congrats! I loved your book, and alla Shonda’s shows.
So pleased for you and I look forward to seeing this project on my monitor/TV, but I’m really missing the Scandal recaps even though I understand your need to have a life…
Luvvie, big congrats to you. Been a long time reader and am soooo truly happy for you. Can’t wait to see the show.
So happy for you! Always happy to hear about goid things happening to good people. You put in the work, stayed the course and now you reap the rewards. Awesome.
Luvvie! *squee!* I am so happy for you! You are our play-cousin, you’re the potato salad maker at our family reunion. I finally finished the book and I can’t wait to see what’s next for you! <3