Issa Rae Revamps Perception of A Black Woman’s Experience With “Insecure”
Actress, writer, producer, and director Issa Rae is just a regular person who happens to be a Black woman with regular life experiences exactly like anyone else. Well, that’s at least what she wants you to understand. Rae has recently made history when she became the first African-American woman to have created and starred in her own scripted show for the popular premium cable network, HBO.
This isn’t a “regular” thing for Issa Rae, whose real name is Jo-Issa “Issa” Rae Diop, as she created the widely-popular and award-winning YouTube series “Awkward Black Girl” back in 2011 that happens to also center around normal experiences of a young Black woman. In a recent interview, Rae discusses her search for defining her “black” identity as a youth growing up in Potomac, Maryland, today’s television diversity, and her newest creative accomplishment, HBO’s “Insecure.”
On defining her African-American self:
I wasn’t really aware of my blackness even though I was around people who were Indian and Jewish, et cetera. They were just my friends. It wasn’t until I moved back to Los Angeles and reflected on those times that I was like, ‘Oh!’ I really wasn’t aware of my blackness as much because nobody else would have talked about it. In terms of trying to figure out what was the definition of blackness, and if I didn’t fit that definition — that stuck with me for years.
On discovering how to create a way to express her experience through “Dorm Diaries” as a student at Stanford University:
I was trying to break into the industry traditionally by writing and entering contests, and quickly figured it is really a ‘who you know’ industry. And so I put out this web series for fun and people from other colleges watched it.
On television diversity in the past and in the present:
I look back on ‘Living Single’ and how I took that for granted because there are no more shows like that. That was the original ‘Friends’ and it was just black people. And ‘Girlfriends’ paved the way for what we’re doing now with ‘Insecure.’
I’m seeing how the tides are changing and how people like Shonda Rhimes and Mara Brock Akil are changing things. In addition to my peers, Justin Simien (Dear White People) and Lena Waithe (Master of None) are trying to put black people and black stories at the forefront. I feel like I’m always getting closer to a position where I can really try to make a change.
On the premise of ‘Insecure’ and her project Color Creative designed to assist writers of colors with finding their own success:
It’s me if I didn’t know what I wanted to do and if I made different decisions. A lot of the characters are based off of friends or people I know.
For me it’s just to give other writers and creatives the opportunity to have experience, which is the No. 1 reason that stupid, racist Hollywood executives give for not hiring people of color.