“Let me introduce myself. My name is ‘J’ and I’m awkward. And black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. That someone was right.” So opens the comedic web series by Issa Rae, who is both the face of and the brains behind The Mis-Adventures of an Awkward Black Girl.
The Awkward Black Girl series began in January, and has been racking up viewers ever since. It chronicles the everyday activities of the main character ‘J’, and the social situations that her awkwardness often exacerbates. So far there have been seven episodes, and they’ve covered awkward situations such as interracial dating, making weird eye contact when walking down a hallway, and the horrors of participating in ice-breaking exercises at work.
Issa Rae is a writer, director, and editor who got her B.A. from Stanford and has taken classes at UCLA and the New York Film academy. In an exclusive interview with theGrio, she talked about her hit series and the support she’s gotten to keep it rolling.
“I came up with the series from my own interaction with people. It’s really an exaggerated version of me.” Rae explained “I thought it would be funny to portray awkward situations on screen that we all go through.”
WATCH THE FIRST EPISODE IN THE AWKWARD BLACK GIRL SERIES HERE
When asked why she thought her series was important to make, she said, “I have an issue with watching TV and not seeing a person I can relate to, a person in a lead role that looks like me.” In a world where we rarely see young African-American lead characters in comedic roles that aren’t stereotypical, ‘Awkward Black Girl’ can feel like a breath of fresh air for audiences.
However, one aspect of the series that has gotten some criticism is J’s use of the n-word. “I do get a lot of flack from viewers for using that word,” said Rae. But she explained that the show is about J’s “unfiltered thoughts,” and even though the word is controversial, she does not want to curb her characters “raw emotions.”
A few months ago the series almost came to an end when Rae realized that she had no way to fund any further episodes. Rae explains in a recent Huffington Post article that she began a kickstart campaign with collaborator Tracy Oliver, asking their 30,000 viewers to help them raise $30,000.
Within the first 24 hours they had raised $4,000. “People came out in droves to support the web-series, we will have 5 more episodes and a grand finally now,” Rae explained happily. Through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and websites such as Clutch Magazine and Black Girl with Long Hair, they were able to raise over $44,000 for their show.
Rae’s show resonates “with the African-American audience…especially women.” Even though this is the case, her hopes are that it is still “universal” and relatable. When asked about her future goals, Rae responded: “I want to be a producer and a writer. I basically want to be the black Tina Fey. To write my own silly things in addition to supporting my talented friends. I would love to be in a position where I could fund great content.”