“Stop making excuses, you’re the only one stopping you,” powerful words spoken by Emmy nominated actress, director, producer and best-selling author Issa Rae. She is best known for the web series, Awkward Black Girl (2011) which later adapted into the popular TV series ‘Insecure’. She has appeared in many TV shows, such as ‘The Couple’, ‘True Friendship Society’ and ‘Instacurity’ and has worked as an executive producer and writer. Featured in Glamour Magazine’s ‘35 Under 35’ and ‘Forbes30 Under 30’ Issa is an honorable recipient of Vanguard Award which she won during the 10th anniversary of ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Awards. She owns her own production company and record label.
Born Jo-Issa Rae Diop on January 12, 1985, in Los Angeles, California. Her father, Abdoulaye Diop, is a pediatrician and neonatologist from Senegal. Her mother, Delyna Diop is a teacher from Louisiana. Her parents met in France, when they both were students. She has four siblings and is fluent in French.
For a short period during her childhood, the family lived in Dakar, Senegal, prior to moving to Potomac, Maryland. Growing up in Potomac was difficult for Issa as most of her neighbors were associated with activities that Blacks were not a part of, such as the swim team, street hockey and Passover dinners with Jewish best friends. Hence, she felt as if she was a misfit.
When Issa was in sixth grade, her family moved to the affluent View Park-Windsor Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, where she attended a predominantly black middle school. She graduated from King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, where she started acting. Her parents divorced when she was in high school.
After high school she attended Stanford University where she majored in African-American Studies. As a college student, she made music videos, wrote and directed plays. It was during this time she met Tracy Oliver, who helped produce Awkward Black Girl and starred on the show as Nina.
She created a web series titled ‘Dorm Diaries.’ The experience that she had gained during childhood formed the base of this web series. Since comedy was her favorite genre, she had mastered the art of narrating a story in a sarcastic and humorous manner, regardless the seriousness of the subject. This was the beginning of her journey as a filmmaker and writer.
In 2007, she graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts in African and African-American Studies. After college, she received a theater fellowship at The Public Theater in New York City. Issa and Tracy Oliver started taking classes at the New York Film Academy. After working odd jobs while struggling to decide between business school and law school, Issa eventually abandoned both ideas when Awkward Black Girl started taking off in 2011.
In 2013, Issa began working on a comedy series pilot with Larry Wilmore, in which she would star. The series, about the awkward experiences of a contemporary African-American woman, was eventually titled Insecure. HBO picked up the pilot in early 2015 and it was subsequently a huge success. Since its release in 2016, the series has received critical acclaim; Eric Deggans of NPR wrote that “Rae has produced a series that feels revolutionary just by poking fun at the life of an average, twenty-something black woman.”
In 2017, the American Film Institute selected Insecure as one of the top 10 Television Programs of the Year. For her acting work on the show, Rae has received two Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy in 2017 and 2018, as well as a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2018. At the 77th annual Peabody Awards, Insecure was honored for “creating a series that authentically captures the lives of everyday young, black people in modern society.” The popular show, lasted 5 seasons on HBO. The final episode of Insecure aired December 26, 2021.
Issa Rae’s first book, a memoir titled The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, was released in 2015 and became a New York Times best-seller. In 2019, her newly launched record label “Raedio,” partnered with Atlantic Records to produce “Kinda Love” by singer-rapper TeaMarrr. In the same year, Google announced that Issa would be an additional voice to the Google Assistant. Users could make Google Assistant speak in Issa’s voice by saying “Ok Google, talk like Issa.” Issa’s Voice was available until Friday, October 1, 2021.
In 2021, Rae’s production company, Hoorae, signed a five-year film and television deal with WarnerMedia.
“I don’t like being limited. That is my worst nightmare.”
“I like to challenge myself.”
“Success is a moving goal post.”
“I thrive on obstacles. If I’m told that it can’t be done, then I push harder.”
“Stop making excuses, you’re the only one stopping you.”
“You should never discount anything.”
“The advantages of black hair are infinite.”
“Food is my destination, my journey, my reward, my friend”
”Stop trying so hard to be someone you’re not.”
“Once you’re coming up with ways that you can’t do something, you’re not gonna do it.”
“I’m rooting for everybody black!”
” If you love something you’re gonna make time for it.”
“Embrace who you are now and embrace what makes your different.”
Recreate Model: Shaunielle Foster
Recreate Photographer: Jasmine Mallory
Makeup Artist: Ollie Tyson