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Issa Rae

Issa Rae

Jo-Issa Rae Diop (born January 12, 1985),[1][2] known as Issa Rae, is an American actress, writer, director, producer, and web series creator. She first garnered attention for her work on the YouTube web series Awkward Black Girl.[3] She subsequently gained further recognition for creating, co-writing, and starring in the HBO television series Insecure.[4][5] For her acting work on Insecure, she has received two Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy[6] and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Since 2011, Rae has continued to develop her YouTube channel, which features various short films, web series, and other content created by people of color.[7][8]

Issa Rae
Jo-Issa Rae Diop

(1985-01-12)January 12, 1985
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other namesJoissa Diop
Alma materStanford University (BA)
  • Actress
  • writer
  • director
  • producer
Years active2011–present
Websiteissarae.com [44]

Early life

Rae was born in Los Angeles, California.[1] Her father, Dr. Abdoulaye Diop, is a pediatrician and neonatologist from Senegal, and her mother, Delyna Diop (née Hayward), is a teacher from Louisiana and is African-American.[9][10][11] Rae's parents met in France, when they were both in school. Rae has four siblings. The family lived in Dakar, Senegal,[2] for a short period during her childhood.[12] Her father has a medical practice in Inglewood, California.[13] []

As a child, Rae lived in Potomac, Maryland, where she grew up with "things that aren't considered 'black,' like the swim team and street hockey and Passover dinners with Jewish best friends."[14] When Rae 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. Rae said that, there, she was "berated for 'acting white'" and initially found it difficult to "fit into this 'blackness' I was supposed to be."[15] Rae graduated from King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, where she started acting.[2] Her parents divorced when she was in high school.[13] []

In 2007, Rae graduated from Stanford University with a major in African and African-American Studies. As a college student, she made music videos, wrote and directed plays, and created a mock reality series called Dorm Diaries for fun. At Stanford, Rae met Tracy Oliver, who helped produce Awkward Black Girl and starred on the show as Nina.[14]

After college, Rae received a theater fellowship at The Public Theater in New York City.[2] Oliver and Rae started taking classes together at the New York Film Academy. Rae worked odd jobs and at one point was struggling to decide between business school and law school, but eventually abandoned both ideas when Awkward Black Girl started taking off in 2011.[9]


Awkward Black Girl

Rae's web series Awkward Black Girl premiered on YouTube in 2011.[16] The show follows the life of J (played by Rae) as she interacts with co-workers and love interests who place her in uncomfortable situations. The story is told through a first-person narrative as J usually reveals how she feels about her circumstances through voice-over or dream sequence.

The series eventually went viral through word of mouth, blog posts, and social media, resulting in mainstream media coverage and attention.[17][18][19] In an effort to fund the rest of the first season, Rae and producer Tracy Oliver decided to raise money for the series through Kickstarter. On August 11, 2011 they were awarded $56,269 from 1,960 donations and released the rest of season one on Rae's YouTube channel.[20]

Rae eventually partnered up with Pharrell and premiered season two of the series on his YouTube channel, iamOTHER.[21] Rae also began releasing other content on her original channel, predominantly created by and starring people of color.[22]

In 2013, Awkward Black Girl won a Shorty award for Best Web Show. Rae created Awkward Black Girl because she felt the Hollywood stereotypes of African-American women were limiting and she could not relate to them:

I've always had an issue with the [assumption] that people of color, and black people especially, aren't relatable. I know we are.[23]

By using YouTube as her forum, Rae was able to have autonomy of her work since she writes, films, produces, and edits most of her work. Rae's other shows—Ratchet Piece Theater, The "F" Word, Roomieloverfriends, and The Choir, among others—also focus on African-American experiences that are often not portrayed in the mainstream media.[24]


In 2013, Rae began working on a comedy series pilot with Larry Wilmore, in which she would star.[25] 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 greenlit.[26] 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."[27]

In 2017, the American Film Institute selected Insecure as one of the top 10 Television Programs of the Year.[28] 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,[6] as well as a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2018.

In 2018, Insecure was honored for "creating a series that authentically captures the lives of everyday young, black people in modern society,"[29] at the 77th Annual Peabody Awards.

On November 14, 2016, HBO renewed the show for a second season.[30] The second season premiered on July 23, 2017.[31] On August 8, 2017, it was announced that the show was renewed for a third season,[32] which premiered on August 12, 2018.

Other work

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 the book, she chronicles her life through a series of humorous anecdotes and opens up about her personal struggle with not fitting in, and not being considered "black enough" at times.[10]

Personal life

Rae's birth name, Jo-Issa, comes from a combination of the names of her grandmothers: Joyce and Isseu. Her middle name, Rae, is after an aunt, who was an artist.[14]

Rae is currently signed with United Talent Agency and 3 Arts Entertainment.

She is engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Louis Diame, a Senegalese businessman.[33] Issa Rae first wore her engagement ring publicly on the cover of Essence magazine's April 2019 issue.[33]


Issa Rae has used her platform to bring attention to police violence and brutality against Black Americans. Following the police shooting of Alton Sterling, Rae raised $700,000 for the Sterling Family Trust to help pay for the Sterling children to attend college.[34]

In media

In 2012, Rae was included on the annual Forbes '30 Under 30' list in the entertainment section.[35]

Rae appeared on the cover of Essence magazine's May 2015 "Game Changers" issue, alongside Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Debbie Allen, and Mara Brock Akil.[36] Rae expressed her desire for more people of color working in production behind the scenes to make a lasting impact in the television industry.[36]



NotesOther credits
2014Hard TimesN/AYesShort film
Black Twitter ScreeningN/ANoShort filmWriter
Protect and ServePolice RecruitYesShort film
A Bitter LimeJane JohnsonNo
2015Killing LazarusN/Aproducer
2018The Hate U GiveApril OfrahNo
2020The PhotographMaePost-production
The LovebirdsJulieYesPost-production


NotesOther credits
2011-2013The Misadventures of Awkward Black GirlJproducerMain castDirected, Writer, 1 episode: "The Sleepover" (2012); Producer, 1 episode: "The Check" (2013)
2012M.O. DiariesN/AYesTV Pilot
The CoupleLisaNoEpisode: "Exes and Texts"
2012-2013The NumberLisaNo6 episodes
2013How Men Become DogsN/AYes9 episodes
True Friendship SocietyMama MothNoEpisode: Pilot Part Two"
My Roommate theJNoEpisode: "Awkward Black Girl"
InstacurityIssaNo2 Episodes: "The Birthday Party" and "Instacurity PSA"
Little HorriblesBest FriendYesExecutive Producer, 3 episodes; Actor, 1 episode: "Sexual Activity"
Inside Web SeriesN/AYesTV series documentary
Black ActressN/Aproducer
2013–2014RoomieloverfriendsN/AYesExecutive Producer, 4 episodes
2013–2015The ChoirN/AYesDirector, 2 episodes: "Genesis" and "New Blood"; Writer, 12 episodes
2014So JadedN/AYesTV Movie
Words with GirlsN/AYesTV Movie
BleachN/AYesTV Movie
RubberheadBride 2NoTV Movie; Segment: "Absorption"
2014–2015FirstN/AYesCo-Executive Producer, 10 episodes; Co-Producer, 1 episodes
2015Get Your LifeN/AYes
2016–presentInsecureIssa DeeYesMain castCreator, writer
2018BoJack HorsemanDr. Indira (voice)No2 episodes

Music Videos

2013"Happy"Pharrell WilliamsWe Are from L.A.Dancer
2017"Moonlight"Jay-ZAlan YangRachel Green
2018"Nice for What"DrakeKarena EvansHerself

Works and publications

  • Rae, Issa (2015). The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl [45] . New York, NY: 37 Ink/Atria – Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781476749051. OCLC 901338241 [46] .


Citation Linkfamilysearch.org"Joissa Rae Diop California Birth Index". FamilySearch. January 12, 1985.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.nytimes.comWortham, Jenna (August 4, 2015). "The Misadventures of Issa Rae". The New York Times.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.vulture.comGopalan, Nisha (February 28, 2013). "Issa Rae on Awkward Black Girl, Her Shonda Rhimes Show, and Hating L.A. Guys". Vulture.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.avclub.comHughes, William (June 23, 2016). "Issa Rae is still an Awkward Black Girl in the trailer for HBO's Insecure". The A.V. Club.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.cnn.comRespers France, Lisa (July 5, 2016). "Issa Rae's 'Insecure' may already be a hit". CNN.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.goldenglobes.com"Issa Rae". www.goldenglobes.com. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkblogs.indiewire.comKang, Inkoo (August 7, 2015). "Issa Rae's Long Road: When Are We Finally Going to Stop Wondering if Women of Color Are "Relatable"?Tumisang Marumo's friend Waxx". Indiewire.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.ebony.comJohnson, Margeaux (October 1, 2014). "Issa Rae's Color Creative Calls for TV Diversity". EBONY.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.huffingtonpost.comGray, Emma (November 5, 2013). "Issa Rae, Creator Of 'Awkward Black Girl', Felt Like Her Voice Was Missing From Pop Culture – So Here's What She Did". The Huffington Post.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.chicagomag.comObaro, Tomi (February 16, 2015). "Issa Rae on Her New Memoir and Being "Halfrican"". Chicago.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.okayafrica.comhttp://www.okayafrica.com/issa-rae/
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linknewrepublic.comBrown, Stacia L. (February 10, 2015). "Meet the Black _________". The New Republic.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Link//www.worldcat.org/oclc/901338241Rae, Issa (2015). The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. New York, NY: 37 Ink/Atria – Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781476749051. OCLC 901338241.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkalumni.stanford.eduHua, Vanessa (May 2012). "Awkward Stage: A web sitcom's quirky black heroine is poised for takeoff". Stanford Magazine.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.essence.comCrossley, Hilary (July 26, 2011). "5 Questions for Issa Rae on 'Awkward Black Girl'". Essence.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgBrown, S Tia (September 12, 2011). "Nerdy Girls Rock". Jet. Vol. 120. Iss. 11. p. 31.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.cnn.comWhitfield, Fredricka (October 8, 2011). "'Awkward Black Girl' web hit" (video interview). CNN.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.phillytrib.comAnderson, Stacy A. (September 12, 2011). "Diverse Web series grows through social media". The Philadelphia Tribune. The Associated Press.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.theroot.comAndrews, Helena (July 6, 2011). "Embracing the Awkward, One Webisode at a Time". The Root.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM
Citation Linkwww.kickstarter.com"Update 1: Update Video: Thank You for Over $40K Raised!". The Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl. Kickstarter. August 8, 2011.
Sep 27, 2019, 3:25 PM