A Senegalese-American who calls Los Angeles home, 26-year-old Rae attended Stanford University where she was bitten by the acting and directing bug. Not long after college, she began her own online television series, starring herself, in the “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” It’s not just entertainment; awkwardness is her life.
ESSENCE.COM: How did you begin “Awkward Black Girl?”
ISSA RAE: I started shooting “Awkward Black Girl” in January after I realized that I couldn’t afford to make it an animated series. I asked my friend Andrew Allen James to play “A,” then asked one of my best friends, with no film experience, to shoot it. I taught her how to frame shots and the first episode was born.
ESSENCE.COM: Describe one of your most awkward moments.
ISSA RAE: The entire sixth grade. I was young, but much of my material comes from that time. It was a weird transitional period because my family moved back to Los Angeles from Potomac, Maryland, where I hadn’t been around many Black people. It was jarring to be berated for ‘acting White’ when I was placed in a predominantly Black middle school in Southern California. 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.
ESSENCE.COM: We hear you’re represented by United Talent Agency and 3 Arts Entertainment, which represent Tina Fey. Are you planning a TV sitcom?
ISSA RAE: I am working on a TV sitcom as we speak, so we’ll see what happens! The response has been better than I ever imagined. “Awkward Black Girl” is spreading to all the right people because of word of mouth and social networks. I’m so grateful.
ESSENCE.COM: As an actress, what types of roles are you looking for?
ISSA RAE: I haven’t been sent out on auditions yet, but I’d love the same kind of roles that Maya Rudolph plays. I also love challenging, indie, dramatic roles because it’s so fun to get into different characters. I once played a transgender gigolo ex-slave… and that was fun.
ESSENCE.COM: Is there pressure in the Black female comedic scene to only make jokes about stereotypical topics like sex, being lonely and multiple baby-fathers?
ISSA RAE: Yeah, which sucks because I can’t relate. 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.
Check out Issa Rae’s “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” web series.