I’m not sure if it’s humanly possible for me to love Issa Rae even more than I already do, but a recent New York Times Magazine profile of the woman responsible for brining The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl to life reminds me why I’m such a huge fan.

In the must-read article, Rae discusses her upbringing (she lived in Senegal for two years), her scuttled pilot deal with Shonda Rhimes (she wavered from her vision), what inspired ABG, and how she hopes to put other content creators of color on the map. While the entire article is a wonderful and insightful read, one of the biggest revelations is just how fiercely Rae protected Awkward Black Girl from Hollywood’s attempts to make it decidedly less Black.

Jenna Wortham of the New York Times Magazine writes:

Her own show was an instant hit online in 2011, and soon a number of networks and production companies expressed interest in adapting ‘‘Awkward Black Girl’’ for prime-time TV. To Rae’s disappointment, most wanted to completely rework the show. Rae recalls a phone conversation with a network executive who wanted to make it into a pan-racial franchise operation, starting with ‘‘Awkward Indian Boy.’’ Another suggested Rae recast the lead with a lighter-skinned actress with long, straight hair — in essence, the exact opposite of Rae. She turned down the offers.

Although network executives wanted to work with Rae and tap into her dedicated fan base, they didn’t respect her mission to create programming that centers complex Black characters.

‘‘They wanted to make it as broad as possible, broadly niche, but I was like: No, that’s not what this is about,’’ she explained.

Even HBO, the network Rae is working with to develop the pilot for “Insecure,” was leery of allowing the Stanford grad to form a team that was extremely diverse.

HBO approved the script for ‘‘Insecure’’ in the fall of 2013. Rae was excited to hire a support staff of other nonwhite writers and producers who would be intimately familiar with the milieu inhabited by her characters. She had a wish list of people she liked — primarily young women of color — but she soon found out HBO had little interest in hiring them. Generally, an HBO spokeswoman said, the network wants people who have experience.

While many people would have been discouraged, or worse, compromised their vision, Rae has stayed the course. As “Insecure” slowly moves through the channels at HBO, Rae supports creators of color through her company Issa Rae Productions and Color Creative, her digital platform. For Rae, who said she was inspired to tell stories by watching Yvette Lee Bowser’s Living Single, it’s all about lifting others as she climbs.

‘‘I don’t ever want it to be just me, ever,’’ she explained. ‘‘That is the worst feeling, to be alone, because then all the pressure is on you. People expect you to be the voice of everyone.’’

Thankfully for us, Rae isn’t afraid to use her voice to be a forceful advocate for both content creators of color and those of us who love, and crave, their work.

Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter
  • Mary Burrell

    If the black woman is wearing relaxed hair and pass the brown paper bag test or is lighter they feeling comfortable and less threatened.

  • ctrldwn

    I don’t know why Mindy Kaling comes to mind but for some reason it holds significance to this. Maybe it’s because all of her love interests are white for a female character of color, who lives in a diverse environment. Something tells me this show is going look totally different from the original and that’s not good if you loved the youtube series.

    There are many avenues for black men and women to showcase their stories to the world without hollywood, now thanks to the internet. With Netflix, Hulu, and other black media companies producing shows on youtube and elsewhere that aren’t stereotypes, we should have no problem getting our stories out there. Why are some of us still groveling at the feet of these hollywood execs? As soon as you come up with a concept of the show that shows black lead characters in positive roles, with a range of complexities, it gets shot down or molded to fit hollywood image of what a black man or woman should look like. You can say there is a ban on black intellectual characters. Their favorite one is when the lead character must look racially ambiguous, as if to say, black lead characters who aren’t of lighter skin tone aren’t relatable to the larger audience unless they are. And if you look at the racial makeup of writers, execs and producers in hollywood, it’s mostly white and many times, when they are tasked to write or produce out stories, it falls flat or it adopts old racist tropes.

    And this must be said: Hollywood isn’t the only problem. It’s our society that is at fault. Very rarely are we seen through the scope of “awkward”, geek, or smart by the larger American society. So much of our society is saturated with negative images of black men and women to the point were we are synonymous with criminality and unintelligence. It’s a crime in the highest order and some of the very people who put these images out there are black.

  • D1Mind

    Actually it is good to see what the situation really is as opposed to what people want it to be. And not too long ago many folks were talking about how progressive things are for black folks and debating why certain casting decisions weren’t necessarily about skin color (as if they didn’t know the true reason). At some point folks have to grow up and admit that folks aren’t going to use something THEY built to be used to promote other folks and leave themselves on the back burner. That is simply not how things work. Now black folks have an opportunity (since obviously we have so many talented Africans all over the place) to actually go ahead and create their own platform. Or they can keep getting kicked in the face and pretend it is a ‘love tap’.

  • mywordsaremypower

    You know how popular Awkward Black Girls would be if it was broadcast if it had the same cast it had? It would blow that dutty Girls out the water. I watched one series and it was so dry, there was nothing funny about it. Oh wait I get? I have to be a white 20 something female who moans about how hard life is. Of course they don’t want the show to overshadow a white running snore fest as it would not look good. I love Issa Rae, she has so much talent it’s a shame she has to be a whole few shades lighter to get noticed like “Lena Bordem”. Issa is a true representation of a roll model regardless of what you race is.

  • lnmFYI92

    We should not be surprised that white owned and operated networks and media continue to treat us and our stories like this. They will never greenlight diverse stories about black men and women that divert from the agenda of destroying our image and perpetuating stereotypes. We as black people should aim to create our own media and invest in ourselves, through pooling our resources together and supporting our own. It is only when we CONTROL our own networks, movie companies etc, that we will feel a sense of pride in seeing the diversity of our people. White companies won’t do right by us and we should stop expecting them to. It’s a waste of time.

    My dream is to see directors like Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes, Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, and other prominent black actors and actresses pool their resources together to create a black media company that has the power to create media that not only makes us proud but also employs black writers, producers, film makers , actors ,actresses etc. We will be able to see the stories that represent us and put our people to work in the creative fields. Forget HBO etc. The true power is in us owning and controlling. For us and by us.