It has taken several years – five in fact – for Hollywood to catch up with the tastes and trends among Blacks that made actress and web star Issa Rae and her series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” household names. Often referred to as “the Black Tina Fey,” Rae made a name for herself by introducing the everyday Black girl – minus the stereotypes, drama, and sundry displays of aggression – to the rest of the world.
Having racked up millions of views with the web series, Rae penned a book in 2015, and her HBO series seems like a logical next step, for the Senegalese-American writer and actress — born Jo-Issa Rae Diop (pronounced Jope, like ‘hope’).
Issa Rae shares a different perspective on being a Black woman in America in her new HBO series: “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” (Courtesy photo)
With “Insecure,” Rae, and co-creator Larry Wilmore, reintroduce the middle-of-the -road Black girl to audiences as the lone Black person working for a Los Angeles non-profit, serving inner city youth. The character Issa Dee, continues to give voice, according to Rae, to the experience millions of Black women endure. Above all else, “Insecure” forces the dial away from stereotype.
“On reality TV, we are always depicted as plotting against each other, as fighting, as not being there for each other. That’s just not my experience with the Black women I know. It wasn’t hard to be able to draw from real-life friendships to put in our show,” Rae told CNN. “I love that people can relate and can see themselves in the work. That makes me so happy, but I’m very much aware that I am not telling every Black woman’s story.”
And relatable, Rae is.
“I fell in love with ‘Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl’ from the first show… it was as if someone had peered into my life and taken very detailed notes,” Howard University communications student Ashley Homer told the AFRO. “It is important that what we see of ourselves as Black girls and women truly reflects all of the different personalities we have. I have seen plenty of Black women on television, but this was the first one that mirrored my experiences.”
For Homer and her friend Taylor Dolphin, who chatted with the AFRO during Howard University’s homecoming festivities, showing Black women as human and as feminine offers a much-needed rest to the strong, Black woman persona.
“The fact that Issa Rae created these characters who are not trying to be anything more than they are, who love science fiction and wearing Chuck Taylor All-Stars, is comforting because it places the insecurities and anxieties of Black women into view,” Dolphin told the AFRO. “Too many of us suffer from not feeling like we have permission to be uniquely different.”
“I’m very socially anxious. I’m always wondering how people perceive me, wondering if they can tell I’m uncomfortable. Just the idea of failure, for sure, makes me insecure — that I don’t have a place and I’m not doing this right, but the pressure is in my own head,” Rae told CNN. “I know my league and I know my lane. I’m not going to be out here trying to be the baddest reality girl. I’m not the model. I’m not going to be on the 100 most beautiful people of the world list. Those aren’t my aspirations. I just want to tell good stories and work behind the scenes to make a change.”