Issa Rae has become almost synonymous with confidence, self-assurance, and non-stop winning and with good reason. Rae is the owner of ColorCreative, an author, producer, actress, CoverGirl, and highly nominated creative telling hilariously relatable stories about being a Black millennial woman in the United States. A “newcomer” to Hollywood, Rae has already been nominated for an Emmy, four NAACP Awards, and a Global Globe for both her work behind and in front of the camera.
However, as a child Issa moved around a lot with her family. Being raised by two parents that were extremely proud to be Black helped Issa connect to her culture and love her darker melanin. However, when the family moved to a predominantly affluent neighborhood in California, Rae was shocked by how others didn’t see her the same way she saw herself: beautiful. Rae told Essence that she felt her light skinned mother “lied to her” because her mother did not have the same lived experience as Issa did growing up as a darker skinned Black girl with more coarse hair. Issa went on to say that the experience impacted the ways in which she saw herself.
Through grappling with her experiences as a dark skinned black women, Rae turned inward. She began writing, acting, and learning everything she could about creating worlds and characters inspired by her life but on their own journey. “ [I focused on] being smart, being accomplished and being respected. As corny as it sounds, I want you to just like my mind.” Focusing on education and her craft paid off when Rae was accepted into the Prestigious Stanford University in California where she met people that would help her with her career for years to come.
In an interview with Ronald Martin on NewsOne, Issa shared a gem of information and inspiration she heard from fellow Black girl creative Amy Aniobi that she uses to continue to achieve her goals, network across. While people tend to think that they should always (or only) network up, Rae shared that networking across with college friends or roommates, childhood friends, and co-workers that are just as hungry has been what has helped her grow. “Literally every project I have done every friend of mine has been in some way shape or form because I needed them, because they were just down. In some cases they aren’t even part of the industry.”
Networking across is exactly what helped Rae launch her show, The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl on YouTube in 2011. While in school, Rae met Tracey Oliver, Oliver is a writer, producer, and actor – whom just like Rae was working on her craft. They networked across, saw the hunger they both had for comedic and culturally relevant content and began working on the show. The two of them co-wrote, produced, and acted alongside one another in the show. Comedic timing, highly relevant cast, and culturally relevant writing and acting made the YouTube show a hit! One year after launching the show Rae was listed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Entertainment List for her work with Awkward Black Girl.
Though it seems that Rae’s success happened overnight, she has been creating content long before The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl premiered on YouTube. While in high school and college, she wrote smaller plays and stories. Even after launching Awkward Black Girls, she and Oliver continued to work odd jobs while furthering their education in film and television writing. Rae is mostly known for Awkward Black Girl, which she wrote and produced; and she acted in several other YouTube series and videos. First followed the love story between two childhood friends that come back into one another’s lives as adults and try having a romantic relationship; and The Choir is a series centered around the hilarious and sometimes serious aspects of church life. But Rae has also been dropping gems of information about writing, television, acting and more through her informative series like The BIZZ Plan, BLACK Actress, and Sips with Issa. Her informative videos offer valuable insights to some of the business aspects of being a creative, the hardships one might anticipate and how to navigate them, and hearing from mega successful people like Diddy speak on business, life, and the creative process.
Rae’s success is a combination of network, putting in the work, and showcasing the work even when it’s hard. Sometimes that means opportunities don’t always work out like one would hope, which was the case in 2012 when Shonda Rhimes and Issa Rae worked together for a show, I Hate LA Dudes. ABC bought the rights to develop but later passed on. ““ABC passed on [“I Hate LA Dudes”] so I am working on another series right now,” she said. “But the process of working with [Shonda Rhimes] was freaking amazing and I learned so much from her” Rae told Hello Beautiful in 2013.
That very same year she was working with comedian Larry Wilmore on a comedy pilot series, which would later be picked up by HBO in 2015 and premiered on the premium cable channel in 2016 — Insecure.
Insecure became an instant hit and a cult classic for Black girls everywhere. The show follows the life of older millennial Black women trying to navigate career, the realities of high rents and low pay, dating, and being in a relationship with oneself while sometimes being “the messy one.” Insecure is set to start filming season four later this year and premiere in 2020.
Rae has definitely been busy.
Not only is she writing and set to start filming season 4 of Insecure, she is also co-executive producer of A Black Lady Sketch Show, the brainchild of the hilarious and highly accomplished fellow Black girl, Robin Thede. Of course, a comedy show being co-produced by two history-making Black women would make history being the first show to be entirely casted, written, and produced by Black women.
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This past weekend I got a special opportunity to bring one of my biggest manifestation to life … I got to give one of my favorite human beings – THE @issarae the #temiglow. From being a die-hard fan of #awkwardblackgirl series to @insecurehbo to getting to meet & glam up this goddess – WOW! the synchronicity of the universe is WILD. I am so full of love and grateful rn. — YES! she is just as amazing as you all imagined her to be in real life. (📸 #rp via @tashyreid) — Super big thank you to @ellefrancois_ of @untoldandco (a real one ✊🏿) / @zibastylebar, @issarae 's team @afrochicto and @delinamedhin for your support and the roles you played in this BIG career moment. Give thanks 🙏🏿🥰 — #essentialsbytemi #temiglow #issarae #afrochic #torontomua #universehasyourback #dreamscometrue
When she’s not making history herself, Rae is helping other people of color have inroads to their success. In December 2018 Variety.com reported that Rae’s production company, ColorCreative signed a multi-picture production deal promoting diverse screenwriters with Sony Pictures. This move is to help other creatives of color work with large media corporations in reciprocal relationships to increase the number of creative of colors in Hollywood.
Additionally, Rae is currently working on two movies set to premiere in 2020, Love Birds and The Photograph. Her resume and hustle is a master class is going for everything that you want in more ways than one.
Rae has used her personal experiences, desire to learn and create, and meaningful relationships to create the life and content she needed and wanted to see not only as a young insecure dark skinned Black girl but as a confident, awarded, and celebrated Black women. We will continue to watch, applaud, and cheer Rae on, while taking cues from her lessons from determination and drive.