'Insecure': All you need to know about its creator Issa Rae, a trailblazing visionary
Issa Rae is the series creator, executive producer, writer, star and Emmy nominee cast-member from her show 'Insecure'. And turns out, she has always been pretty badass that way.
To say that Issa Rae has done something revolutionary with her show "Insecure" would be a gross, unfair, colossal understatement. Gone are the days that the only portrayal black women got on mainstream TV shows or movies are those of the loud, sassy, confident neighbor, or at the most - the best friend that teaches you how to "ho'". In Insecure, these ladies are glowing, they are thriving, they are living life the way that societal norms have convinced viewers to believe only white people can dream of portraying on the big screen. These women are the masters of their plots and do not need a main white character behind whom they can have all the fun.
In simpler terms - Issa Rae's 'Insecure' shows and represents black characters in a way that hasn't been done before - and even if saying that the days of seeing black characters getting stereotyped are gone is saying too much, this show for sure does provide a pretty solid kick to mainstream media that somehow believes cornrows and grills are white people trademark too.
But who is this Issa Rae and why aren't more people glorifying this leading lady with the big award-nominated show on HBO and another very kick-ass book called "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl" in her credits, too? First things first - Rae is the series creator, executive producer, writer, star and Emmy nominee cast-member from her pioneering show. And turns out, she has always been pretty badass that way.
At just 33, Rae is also known for her very popular web series, "Awkward Black Girl" and even after earning Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, she continues to develop her YouTube channel with several short films, web series, and other miscellaneous content - the common ground between all of them being that they are all created by people of colour.
She was born in Los Angeles, California, to a pediatrician-father and a teacher-mother. She grew up with four siblings and was raised for the most part in an environment full of things that aren't considered black by nature, per se. So when she shifted schools to be enrolled in a predominantly black school, she told Essence, "It was jarring to be berated for ‘acting White’. [...] I was also chubby, into boys who weren’t into me, and tried too hard to fit into this ‘blackness’ I was supposed to be."
Rae's education has included graduation from Stanford University with a major in African and African-American Studies, following which she took classes at the New York film academy. That was when she was working odd jobs and trying to decide between business school and law school. But at the same time, her web series - which she had started just a while ago, started taking off - steering the path clear for her.
But the journey to where she is hasn't been a joyride full of sunshine and rainbows. Yes, she might sound like the person of color whose rise to fame was filled with hurdles but there's so much more to her story than the stereotypes others would succumb too quickly to judge her by.
For one: Rae doesn't complain, she gets it done. Which is clear from what she told Adweek about her journey to running, starring and continuing with this extremely successful TV show. She calls shifting the paradigm from having no budget, to moving to YouTube and finally having her own show, 'a relief.'
"There’s a novelty to that where it’s like, 'Oh, the struggle is what made it appealing'," says Rae about her journey to where she is now. "..but after a while, it gets exhausting. People have real jobs and then careers, and nobody can live off of this [internet show]. So [it’s a relief] to be working with people that are paid properly, so that part’s taken care of. So there’s no resentment or concern. You can just focus on being creative. It just makes everything more fun."
But the issue of pay hasn't been the only thing that has bothered her on this journey towards success. Sharing how she could never relate to the whole 'loud, sexy, racy' portrayal of black women in mainstream shows as side characters, she told Essence: "Props to 'The Queens of Comedy' humor, but I know we’re more than that. I personally don’t feel any pressure to make jokes about multiple baby-fathers and stereotypical Black jokes, because one, that’s just not my life, and two, I wouldn’t even sound right talking about those things. I’ll stick to finding the funny in the ordinary because my life is pretty ordinary and so are the lives of my friends — and my friends are hilarious."
All of these interesting ideas and Rae was just at the beginning of her fame with her web series at the time. It's no secret with viewpoints as sharp as hers, she was sure-shot on the road towards becoming the hit she is today, after three very successful seasons of her show 'Insecure'. She even went on to be featured on the annual Forbes '30 Under 30' list in the entertainment section.
Rae - who is is currently signed with United Talent Agency and 3 Arts Entertainment - has no intention of stopping, even with the platform she has created with her groundbreaking TV series. Her characters are successful black women - each a beacon in her own profession, and regarding the same, she scared it all comes out from her interest in taking up things that break archetypical stereotypes of dark-skinned women on TV and film.
“Dark-skinned women still portray a certain archetype and I want to change that,” she shared during the Insecure Fest at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, on July 22. “They’re either super strong, emotionless, robotic — or hyper-sexual, and you don’t get the in-between very much.”
And living up to her words, she managed to weave characters on Insecure, that are equally complex and layered. “I want the portrayal of dark-skinned women to evolve in such a way that you see us as multi-faceted,” Yvonne Orji - who plays the role of Molly aka Issa's BFF on the show, says about Rae's unique vision. “We are more than just the sassy friend or the maid. We’re so dynamic. We can be the leads.”
Along the same lines, Natasha Rothwell - aka the face of Kelli on the show -- also shared her insights on Rae's unique representation of black women. “My character brings a lot of the comedy to the show, but she’s not a caricature,” she said. “She’s grounded, she’s thoughtful, she has feelings and emotions that she wants to express in supporting her friends. And you’ll see more of that this season.”
Back in 2015, Rae had appeared on the cover of Essence magazine's May 2015 "Game Changers" issue, alongside iconic figures like Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Debbie Allen, and Mara Brock Akil. And if that wasn't a sign of the sheer success her vision has paved her way towards, then all you need to do is check out the upcoming season 3 of 'Insecure', which returns on August 12, on HBO. And you won't be disappointed!
Rae's character Issa is dysfunctional like any other insecure woman dancing along the transitional line between the late twenties and early thirties is. But she is also driven - even with her quirky nature and mistakes galore. Something which clearly has made Insecure - a black-people-comedy - extremely relatable to viewers regardless of their skin tone.