Issa Rae is having one hell of a year.
In a little over 12 months she’s gone from being a woman with a dream to create her own sitcom, to one of the most sought-after new voices in media.
After noticing network TV didn’t feature characters that resonated with her, Rae, a Stanford University grad, set out to create her own.
Her web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, has been a runaway hit since it premiered last February, and audiences can’t seem to get enough of Issa Rae and her awesomely awkward humor.
I first met Issa last summer over lunch in L.A. and we literally laughed the entire time.
Her wit, intelligence, and comedic timing was so on point that we barely finished our food, too busy cracking jokes about reality TV stars, Twitter rants gone bad, and all-around foolishness. It is her ability to make people laugh while also being completely relatable that caught the eye of some of Hollywood’s most influential people and is quickly turning Rae into a household name.
This summer, her web series Awkward Black Girl (ABG), has been picked up by super-producer Pharrell Williams and distributed through his YouTube network, i am Other, and she recently inked a deal to team up with famed Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal showrunner Shonda Rhimes to write and produce her first network sitcom.
With so many projects in the works, and the mainstream media finally taking notice, I knew I had to chat with Issa Rae about her fabulous year.
Check it out.
Britni Danielle: First of all, congrats on teaming up with Shonda Rhimes and scoring a network show. How did that come about?
Issa Rae: Thank you! I met with Shondaland a year ago because of Awkward Black Girl. They just wanted to get to know me and get a sense of what I wanted to do with the show.
Then when the New York Times article came out a couple of months ago, they called me back in and asked me if I had anything else I was working on. I told them about a rough idea I had for I Hate L.A. Dudes and we spent the next 2 hours talking about how much L.A. men suck. They asked to develop it with me and here we are today.
BD: Although you’ve had success with ABG online, did you have any reservations about jumping to network TV?
IR: I don’t have any reservations. I’m excited about the process and I’ve wanted this for a long time. I’m just excited for the opportunity to put my voice out there.
BD: What will the new TV gig mean for Awkward Black Girl?
IR: Awkward Black Girl will finish out its second season for sure. I’m still working on getting it to cable, and if that doesn’t happen, then I’m still pretty passionate about an ABG film.
IR: I don’t know if there’s going to be a season 3. I’m on the fence about it.
BD: You’ve had an amazing year, what have you learned about yourself throughout this journey?
IR: Wow. I’ve learned my limits and who I can and can’t work with. I’ve learned how to better manage my time. I’ve learned that I’m more sensitive to what people think than I thought I was. I’ve learned NOT to be sensitive to what people think. I’ve learned that I work best under pressure. AND, as corny as it sounds, I’ve learned that I can honestly do ANYTHING if I work hard enough and believe enough in myself to make it happen.
BD: My goal is to inspire others to chase their dreams. What gave you the courage to create ABG and see it through?
IR: My courage came from a feeling of necessity. I felt like I HAD to do it and that if I didn’t, it’s something I would’ve regretted down the line. I don’t ever want to look back on my life and have a list of “I Shouldas.” That’s scary to me.
BD: What would you tell others who are hesitant about going for their goals?
IR: Those who are hesitant, I’d think about the future and think about yourself on that deathbed and ask yourself, “Would ‘almost-dead me’ be mad at ‘super-alive me’ if I don’t try this?”
BD: You’ve already accomplished so many things, a hit web series, a network TV gig, what’s next on your list of world domination?
IR: To me there’s still so much stuff I want to do. I’ve only scratched the surface. I want to get more into film. I want to curate other up and coming filmmakers/content creators of color and showcase their work. I want work with creative high school youth and encourage them to pursue the arts. I just want to do everything.
How has Issa Rae’s success inspired you? Please leave a comment and share your favorite ABG moments.
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**Photo cred: Elton Anderson for Rolling Stone