Written by Kiara Powell
Widely recognized for her web series Awkward Black Girl, that eventually grew into the hit show Insecure on HBO, Issa Rae has shown the world that sometimes you have to create your own opportunities in order to succeed. Launching her career with over 300,000 subscribers on YouTube, Issa has since been able to cultivate a global audience with original content that focuses on unconventional storylines, thanks to her courage to pull up her own seat to the table and bypass the gatekeepers of the entertainment industry.
For many creatives, especially black women, Issa Rae is a source of inspiration. It can be incredibly difficult to see many women who look like Issa working behind the scenes writing scripts and making executive decisions, much less being the main character in prime-time series. With so many things going up against us: racism, sexism, and almost everything in-between, it can be difficult to find the energy, or even the motivation, to create content. However, Issa is proof that when you stay in your lane and focus your energy on creating meaningful and authentic content, opportunities that you have never imagined can open up for you.
Although it may seem that her success came overnight, Issa has been working on her craft almost all of her life. In high school, she attended the King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, where she began taking acting seriously and was apart of producing shows that showed complex and challenging narratives around race. After high school, she went to Stanford University where she continued acting and producing plays, including a stage adaptation of Spike Lee’s School Daze, that drew an almost sold out crowd. Like all of us, Issa experienced setbacks before she hit the jackpot. Before Insecure came to HBO, she went through the pitching process with ABC and Shonda Rhimes to pitch a show, “I Hate L.A. Dudes,” which ultimately failed in development. Although it seemed like a major setback at the moment, it was preparation for the success in her landing her show on HBO.
What we can learn from Issa Rae, especially in these times where we can find fame in unconventional ways through social media, is to constantly work and promote your craft. From there, you can build your audience, and create your own path to success. Audiences across the country and even the world are looking for diverse characters with complex issues and feelings. In fact, although Insecure is catered to a black audience, only a little over 30 percent of its audience is black, which shows that this isn’t just a black show, but one that everyone — no matter what your background may be — can identify with. If there’s anything we can learn from Issa Rae, it’s to keep creating your own original content, and in due time, your time will come.
Kiara M.P. is a brand designer from Richmond, Virginia, specializing in copywriting and digital content. When she’s not writing, she enjoys going to concerts, visiting national parks and Yelping about her favorite restaurants.