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Issa Rae Just Did It For The Culture (Again)
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Issa Rae Just Did It For The Culture (Again)

Issa Rae

In 2016, Issa Rae took her vision that was five years in the making, and transformed it what is now the HBO hit-show, Insecure. The groundbreaking series received an overwhelming response and led her to become one of the youngest (and most melanted) industry professionals in the game. Issa's initiative to tell all of our stories is invaluable to further developing the archetypes of black women.


Last year on the Emmys red carpet, she delivered the prolific quote that will resonate in our hearts and minds forever: "I'm rooting for everybody black." The quote that is now written across t-shirts and coffee mugs across this nation is a reminder to Issa, that we're rooting for you too, boo. It was just announced that the actress received her first Emmy nod for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy, and it's an occasion worth celebrating. Although her success may seem overnight to some, this nomination was years in the making.

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I believe it was junior year of college when I discovered Issa's YouTube series, Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl, and I've been following her ever since. I recall how elated I felt seeing a depiction of a black woman in the media that was more aligned with me than ever before.

Issa's character asked all of the questions that many of us refuse to say aloud out of fear that we were alone in those hella random moments. In remaining true to her art form, she's given a platform to other self-proclaimed awkward black girls, including myself.

With so much of the world telling black women who they (allegedly) are — boisterous, bitter, angry, and quick to check whoever, wherever — it's easy to feel lost. You try to live up to the hype of that monolithic script, not because you necessarily want to, but because we've been made to feel it's the only way. Issa proves that it's not.

When I think about the phase I went through in middle school, trying to keep up with the the idea of who a "typical black girl" should be, I can't help but wonder how much sooner I might have come to find myself if we had women like Issa Rae around. I can't imagine how beneficial it would have been to have a voice that reassured little black girls like me that our awkwardness and social anxiety were acceptable. Representation matters, honey.

That statement will never get old because although matters in the media are constantly improving, there's definitely room for additional multidimensional roles. We often internalize media, this observation has been studied for years now. This internalization impacts our self-esteem, mood, and behavior. When they are unable to see themselves reflected in the media, it leaves little girls and boys alike feeling as though they're limited to the hyper-sexualized or hyper masculine scripts that were pre-written for them. The media's lack of diversity has the ability to hinder a positive self-image among people of color.

Related: Issa Rae Believes It's Unfair That Black Women Have To Be "Every Woman"

The past five years have been epic for black television, generally speaking. In that time frame, we've been blessed with characters like the Vera Wang Queen, Olivia Pope, and the sperm-snatching Mary Jane Paul, who are each portrayals of black women in powerful positions. They kicked down the doors of primetime TV so that more complex characters of color could have an opportunity to thrive. We see this cultural progression in shows like Queen Sugar and Atlanta.

The roles that Issa continues to create and advocate for, are roles that speak to our soul on several levels, making these characters agents of change that reach multiple generations of people. These qualities alone allow her work to transcend everything that has been done prior to her reign.

There's TV B.I. (before Issa) and there's TV A.I. (after Issa), and I truly believe that everything to follow will continue to change the way we view ourselves through the scope of media for the better.

*Featured image by Getty Images

Black Women, We Deserve More

When the NYT posted an article this week about the recent marriage of a Black woman VP of a multi-billion-dollar company and a Black man who took her on a first date at the parking lot of a Popeyes, the reaction on social media was swift and polarizing. The two met on Hinge and had their parking lot rendezvous after he’d canceled their first two dates. When the groom posted a photo from their wedding on social media, he bragged about how he never had “pressure” to take her on “any fancy dates or expensive restaurants.”

It’s worth reading on your own to get the full breadth of all the foolery that transpired. But the Twitter discourse it inspired on what could lead a successful Black woman to accept lower than bare minimum in pursuit of a relationship and marriage, made me think of the years of messaging that Black women receive about how our standards are too high and what we have to “bring to the table” in order to be "worthy" of what society has deemed is the ultimate showing of our worth: a marriage to a man.

That's right, the first pandemic I lived through was not Covid, but the pandemic of the Black male relationship expert. I was young – thirteen to be exact – when Steve Harvey published his best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Though he was still just a stand-up comedian, oversized suit hoarder, and man on his third marriage at the time, his relationship advice was taken as the gospel truth.

The 2000s were a particularly bleak time to be a single Black woman. Much of the messaging –created by men – that surrounded Black women at the time blamed their desire for a successful career and for a partner that matched their drive and ambition for the lack of romance in their life. Statistics about Black women’s marriageability were always wielded against Black women as evidence of our lack of desirability.

It’s no wonder then that a man that donned a box cut well into the 2000s was able to convince women across the nation to not have sex for the first three months of a relationship. Or that a slew of other Black men had their go at telling Black women that they’re not good enough and why their book, seminar, or show will be the thing that makes them worthy of a Good Man™.

This is how we end up marrying men who cancel twice before taking us on a “date” in the Popeyes parking lot, or husbands writing social media posts about how their Black wife is not “the most beautiful” or “the most intelligent” or the latest season of trauma dumping known as Black Love on OWN.

Now that I’ve reached my late twenties, many things about how Black women approach dating and relationships have changed and many things have remained the same. For many Black women, the idea of chronic singleness is not the threat that it used to be. Wanting romance doesn’t exist in a way that threatens to undermine the other relationships we have with our friends, family, and ourselves as it once did, or at least once was presented to us. There is a version of life many of us are embracing where a man not wanting us, is not the end of what could still be fruitful and vibrant life.

There are still Black women out there however who have yet to unlearn the toxic ideals that have been projected onto us about our worthiness in relation to our intimate lives. I see it all the time online. The absolute humiliation and disrespect some Black women are willing to stomach in the name of being partnered. The hoops that some Black women are willing to jump through just to receive whatever lies beneath the bare minimum.

It's worth remembering that there are different forces at play that gather to make Black women feast off the scraps we are given. A world saturated by colorism, fatphobia, anti-Blackness, ableism, and classism will always punish Black women who demand more for themselves. Dismantling these systems also means divesting from any and everything that makes us question our worth.

Because truth be told, Black women are more than worthy of having a love that is built on mutual respect and admiration. A love that is honey sweet and radiates a light that rivals the sun. A love that is a steadying calming force that doesn’t bring confusion or anxiety. Black women deserve a love that is worthy of the prize that we are.

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Featured image: Getty Images

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