I have admittedly failed to reach the goal I had set for my blog this month. If you remember my most recent post, I declared to feature “important figures in Black History that are more modern and relevant to my interests” throughout February. As you can see, that has not happened! Feel free to throw virtual trash at me. However, I’m human, and all I can do is accept what I didn’t do and move on. Black History Month will be coming to a close soon, but I don’t think that means my blog can’t be a reflection of my culture all year round! So cheers to not biting off more than I can chew and making promises that I maybe can’t keep.
Today, I am featuring someone who happens to be one of my biggest inspirations. If you don’t know her name now, I’m sure you’ll know and love Issa Rae by the end of the year, just like I do. Back in the summer of 2012, I stumbled upon a web series written by Issa. The title alone, Awkward Black Girl, drew me in quickly. I was awkward. I was Black. I was a girl—something told me I’d relate to this show. The content was hilarious, too. It took me less than the full first episode to be hooked. The first episode, which now has over 1.7 million views on YouTube, introduces us to J. We see J, the show’s main character, driving along in her car in the first scene. As she pulls up to a stop sign, she spots an unwanted acquaintance in the other lane. This is the first of many awkward situations we see J go through. She has a job that she hates, an evil co-worker, a wack job of a boss, a mistake from her past that wont leave her be, a crush on two different guys, and an entertaining best friend to help her get through it all.
When Issa Rae started writing Awkward Black Girl, she didn’t expect for her web series to take off like it did. She was, however, frustrated with the lack of content and representation for black people in television. She says in an interview for Elle, “Networks are too fearful of ostracizing people and aren’t willing to fully address race. I’ve always had an issue with the [assumption] that people of color, and black people especially, aren’t relatable. I know we are.” And she was right, as each episode of Awkward Black Girl has hundreds of thousands of views. Rae’s web series was hilarious, uncomfortable, and was only the beginning of her budding career.
After the second season’s Kickstarter success and acknowledgment by producer Pharell, Rae’s channel became a hub of content for writers representing the minority. With her buzz, she was able to be a platform for her own content, as well as other up and coming producers and writers. She founded Color Creative.TV, which is a TV pilot developing program that “aims to increase opportunities for women and minority TV writers to showcase and sell their work.” Since the show’s premiere in 2011, Issa has not stopped working, and that work is finally paying off. This past month, she released her highly anticipated debut memoir, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. The book is a collection of essays from Issa herself and has even been given the thumbs up from another favorite of mine, Mindy Kaling.
Most excitingly, Issa has been developing a pilot with HBO and Larry Wilmore. Despite her success, Issa wants to achieve more. She mentions in a recent interview with The Bizz Plan that she wants to be in a position where “she has an idea, and [can say] I’m gonna do it.” I love Issa Rae because while she has pushed her way into the business and is now a well-respected contender, she knows there is no time to get comfortable. She is also tired of apologizing and feels she should know longer have to ask for permission to tell our stories. When I first saw Awkward Black Girl on YouTube three years ago, I immediately knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Issa has inspired me, and many other young people of color to pursue a career in an industry that often rejects us. Her path hasn’t been easy, but very admirable so far. And I can’t wait for what’s next.
For more of Issa and her incredible content, check out all of her links below! As always, thanks for reading!