Imagine Hollywood without Issa Rae?
Well, you probably can’t—and neither can we. In addition to writing, producing and starring in Insecure, she’s an executive producer of HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show as well as the creator of Issa Rae Productions, which has an array of projects in the works hiring and featuring Black creatives.
“My first Hollywood pitch was kind of unofficial,” she shares. “Basically, I had this web series. It was the third web series I had ever made. The executive was like, ‘Yes I saw your show—funny stuff, funny stuff.’ ”
“And I was like, ‘Um, thank you.’ ”
“He was like, ‘Yeah, it’s about this Black woman and her Black woman problems. Hilarious.’ ”
“And I was like, ‘That’s not what it’s about, but okay.’ ”
He went on to tell Rae that audiences want to see familiar faces and that she should switch up the characters to attract more widespread attention. Basically, an example of another non-Black person trying to tell a Black creative what would appeal to Black audiences. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s many of our lived experiences as Black people in this country.
“It just became very clear to me that he didn’t get the show,” she recalls. “I remember just fuming in that meeting. Why does he get to tell me what gets to be on TV? Why does he get to tell me what people like me like to see, when I’m here telling you what I want to see. I made it.”
Though many would have been broken in that moment, Rae reflects on how it inspired her to keep going. The moment gave her the fuel she needed to bet on herself. And we’re damn sure it did, because Rae is the Hollywood gift that keeps on giving. Not only has she forged a path for herself, but many aspiring creative artists who are seeking their big break in Hollywood are following in her footsteps.
The best part of the story? She reflects that one of them got fired after that incident. And it wasn’t Rae, okurrr?