If you’re ever looking for a example of staying the course and working until you get what you want, look no further than Issa Rae. The 38 year-old Los Angeles native started acting while in high school. While attending college at Stanford University, she continued acting and also made music videos, wrote and directed plays and created a mock reality series called Dorm Diaries for fun. After college, she received a theater fellowship at The Public Theater in New York City. While there, Rae worked odd jobs to make a living and even considered going to business or law school.
Luckily for her, Awkward Black Girl (the web series that first garnered her attention) premiered on YouTube in 2011 before she had to make a real decision. Through word of mouth, blog posts and social media, the series became viral. The success of the show led her to work with Larry Whitmore on a comedy series plot, in which she would star. HBO ended up picking up the plot in early 2015 and was eventually greenlit. Insecure was released in 2016 and spent five successful seasons on air. Rae also created the HBO Max series Rap Sh!t. The first season premiered last year while the second season is set for later this year. On top of her webseries and television work, Rae has also starred in numerous feature films including The Hate U Give (2018), Little (2019) and The Photograph (2020). She will also voice Jessica Drew / Spider-Woman in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, (which hits theaters Friday, June 2) and star in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (July 21st release date).
The mogul is far from satisfied though. Last Friday (May 26), Issa visited The Jennifer Hudson Show to discuss some of her future plans. “I wanna do so much. I feel like I’m just getting started. I wanna build a studio in South L.A. That’s such a passion project of mine that I’m actively pursuing,” she explained while crediting Debbie Allen, Oprah Winfrey, and Gina Prince-Bythewood as inspirations to “even try” to do all she’s done. The HOORAE executive already owns Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen in Inglewood, California and wants to continue bringing new and exciting opportunities to a place that means so much to her.
Later on in the interview, Issa shared how she had a life changing moment while attending the taping of an episode of Moesha (which was actually set in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles). She spoke on how while she was in middle school, there weren’t any shows on television about ordinary Black teenage girls and their families. She added how incredible it was to see Brandy play the role.
“I won a script of that episode. Like I said, I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how or where to even start and that script was just the blueprint in front of me,” Rae recalled. “I remember studying it every single day and I used it as a template to write my own scripts, but that ended up changing my life. Because making television felt so attainable […] It was such a thrilling experience and such a core memory for me.”
The two queens spoke on various other topics including Insecure coming to an end, her relationship with the cast mates and crew, her inappropriate relationship with dolls before her Barbie role and some funny behind the scene moments. You can check out the full interview below! Shout out to Brandy for being a spark for young women everywhere. Shout out to Issa for using the motivation she got and going on to do big things! Shout out to Jennifer Hudson for getting the scoop.