TheGrio's 100: Issa Rae, creator of 'Awkward Black Girl' web series brings the laughs
Issa Rae is the creator of the popular Awkward Black Girl web series, a show that touches on the humor in everyday moments from the perspective of “J,” an African-American woman who describes herself on the show as: “Awkward. And black.”
“Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be,” J says. “That someone was right.”
The show portrays some of the most of uncomfortable situations in dating, work life and more. Rae, a 26-year-old Senegalese-American, plays “J,” and started the show last January after sitting on the idea for two years.
“I came up with the series from my own interaction with people. It’s really an exaggerated version of me.” Rae told theGrio. “I thought it would be funny to portray awkward situations on screen that we all go through.”
The L.A. native earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and studied film at the New York Film Academy. Rae, who is a writer, director and editor, is also the person behind web shows The ‘F’ Word, a mockumentary on a hip hop group’s attempt to become famous, and Dorm Diaries, which she created while still at Stanford.
Issa Rae is making history … as the creator of a popular web series with a central African-American character often not seen in mainstream media. Her videos have received hundreds of thousands of views thanks to their dry, humorous portrayal of one woman’s awkward situations.
What’s next for Issa?
Since signing with UTA and 3 Arts Entertainment, Rae is working on turning Awkward Black Girl into a half-hour comedy for cable TV. However, she is also considering keeping her show exclusively available on the internet.
Issa Rae in her own words …
“I think (Awkward Black Girl) sends a message to mainstream media that we don’t have to have these white male and female leads for everybody to relate to them,” Rae told the Associated Press. “It’s sort of unfair to think that, so I hope that this show influences future casting decisions just based off what we’ve been able to do so far. “
A little-known fact about Issa Rae…
Nearly 2,000 people have collectively donated over $56,000 to help with the production costs of Awkward Black Girl and keep it going.
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THEGRIO’S Q&A WITH ISSA RAE
Q: What’s next in this chapter of your life?
A: I’m focused on making a bigger impact with “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” for Season 2 and currently working on other series for television and the web, in addition to a couple of feature films.
Q: What’s a little fact about you that many people don’t know?
A: I’m half Senegalese and speak French.
Q: What’s your favorite quote?
A: “The world does not know that a people is great until that people produces great literature and art. No people that has produced great literature and art has ever been looked upon by the world as distinctly inferior.” – James Weldon Johnson
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: I get my inspiration from my family, the people around me and just day to day observations. Honestly, a lot of my material comes from annoying and embarrassing things I’ve experienced OR things that I personally find funny.
Q: Who are/were your mentors?
A: My family, my 10th grade drama teacher, Mr. Freedman, my college professor Harry Elam, Gina Prince Bythewood, and Tina Fey
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who’s craving to achieve their dreams?
A: Stop craving and just do it. I can’t stress that enough. All the times I kept thinking of the reasons why I couldn’t do it or why I didn’t have time or how I didn’t have enough money … I finally decided to just work around it. Don’t let yourself stop you from achieving your dreams. Because, honestly, you’re the only reason their not happening.