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Watch Issa Rae hilariously recount what happened four years ago when she attended an ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood event as a relatively unknown YouTube star.

Mar, 05, 2017

During the 10th anniversary ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood celebration, Vanguard Award honoree Issa Rae channeled all of her magic—the awkward, brilliant, humorous, radiant kind —to give a speech that brought joy to everyone in attendance.

Recognized for her incredible work in Hollywood thus far, including her web series, Awkward Black Girl, which was only the prequel to her amazing HBO sitcom, Insecure, the 32-year-old star accepted her award by reflecting on both her past and present in what she described as a “full-circle moment.”

“This is my favorite event to come to…it’s such a genuine real event, it’s the only one my publicist doesn’t have to force me to go to and it’s also the first event that I walked a red carpet."

Remarking on the first time she attended the ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood event four years ago when she was merely a YouTube star, she recalls receiving very little love on the red carpet and being hilariously overlooked for boxer Laila Ali. She goes on to explain that it was the small moments when a few of her favorite stars, like Sanaa Lathan, Niecy Nash and Vanessa Bell Calloway, that gave her the unspoken Black girl affirmation and acknowledgement she needed to be steadfast and hold on to her dreams.

Introduced by last year’s Legend Award recipient, Debbie Allen, Rae sang her praises before many of the Black women in her own life who have helped propel her to greatness.

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“I want to take this moment while I have the honor of being acknowledged to be here to count all the ways in which the Black women, many of whom are in this room, have paved the way for me in my career. [That] obviously starts with my mother,” she said as she choked back tears. “She’s the first Black woman I have ever loved with all of my heart. And the first to love me sincerely and dearly and because of that I have the strength and confidence to do what I do. And ironically she’s where I get all of my awkwardness from so thank you for that!” 

The Los Angeles native has come a long way in four years, and while she is still a self-proclaimed awkward Black girl, she's hardly one that goes unrecognized in Hollywood these days, and that's why she was celebrated as the 2017 ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Vanguard Award recepient.

“Thank you ESSENCE for this event and for making us always feel special and loved and magic and most of all, important. Thank you for this honor.”