How Issa Rae is changing the way Hollywood lets black women create
Issa Rae got her start with the comedic series, “Awkward Black Girl” on YouTube.
After the launch of her series, the Stanford graduate has parlayed her YouTube career into more than a singular web series, it’s become a platform where all people of color can share their stories.
Issa has extended beyond the perimeters of YouTube. Now, she’s a known producer, writer, as well as actress and co-creator of HBO’s Insecure, which follows a partial Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl storyline.
According to her own website:
“With her own unique flare and infectious sense of humor, Issa Rae’s content has garnered over 23 million views and over 200,000 YouTube subscribers (and counting).”
Gaining 1.3 million followers on YouTube, Rae has hit Forbes'”35 under 35″ and made the New York Times Best Seller list.
Issa Rae is now developing a 90s LA drama with The Turner House author Angela Flournoy, NAACP Image award nominee.
Rae shared with Deadline,
“I’m so thrilled to be working with Angela. I was a huge fan of The Turner House and we feel so lucky to bring her beautiful storytelling to HBO.”
Flournoy shared the same sentiment:
The novel, a VCU First Novelist winner brings to life The Turner House to life, and will depict a Black family living in Los Angeles in the 90s.
According to Rolling Stone,
“The early Nineties, when the show will be set, was of course a tumultuous time for L.A. The crack epidemic, the war on drugs, tough-on-crime policies and gang violence wreaked havoc on many neighborhoods, while long-simmering racial tensions finally erupted in 1992 after four LAPD officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King.”
As for Insecure, the second season was a success, with the third on its way.
Earlier this year, she appeared on a Complex issue as Pam Grier, Issa’s favorite black woman on television.
Issa Rae is very known for keeping it real at all times.
“You compare yourself to other people. You compare your success to other people. Everything happens at the right time. I’m still awkward, but now I don’t apologize for leaving the party at 9 p.m.”
“Being able to explore that on the show and have people talk about it, and to address it and to show a potential solution and to have people kind of question their own personal worth at their job – it fit exactly within the vein of our show because we don’t necessarily take a side either way.”
And she certainly does do that. If you haven’t watched her original series, take a look at episode one.
Check out the full list of episodes here.
It’s no wonder that her authentic, creative outlet shone through Hollywood’s hearts and garnered so many fans.
In an interview with People Magazine, Rae has a heart to heart discussing women in the industry,
“I’ve been influenced by strong women doing what they’re supposed to do and living in their truths. I think being in the industry and seeing a dearth of those women made me feel like, ‘I can do something.
And Rae seems to have accomplished telling these issues so far through activism and magnifying show plot-lines. The Hollywood Reporter‘s interview with her speaks about the issues going on around the world today and touches on how that flows with her characters’ development.
“I get to actually hire people, and dictate who I work with and who I can put a spotlight on. It just made sense for me as someone who is constantly inspired by powerful women to give them a platform to be able to do the same.”
On television, Black women are often portrayed as stereotypically as possible. Quartz does a wonderful job at describing the typical images of Black women in media:
“On screen, black women are often trapped at one or another extreme. On one side are the black women reduced to time-honored stereotypes, where they are either “mammys” (Gone With the Wind and The Help); prostitutes (Hustle and Flow) or addicts (The Corner); or reductive “magical negro” types (Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost).”
And then we have the “fierce, unstoppably powerful superwomen that have risen lately as a sharp reaction to these roles: Olivia Pope of Scandal; Cookie of Empire; Beyoncé of… Beyoncé.”
Issa Rae’s character, J, explores a medium between these extremes, giving the audience an original and authentic spin on her character, which no doubt helped propel her career in the direction she wanted, and spun it into an award-winning production.
She certainly has a natural ability to channel relatable stories. She told the Hollywood Reporter, “For me it just came down to telling human stories. Trying to be funny, putting people in realistic situations. We’re telling a very universally specific story.”
For now, Issa Rae remains a revolutionary out in the Hollywood spotlight and shines through her show Insecure.
As the trailblazing icon keeps taking on projects, we’re anxiously awaiting her next major move and next impactful message.