Spotlight On: Issa Rae

The 2019 Women In Film Emerging Entrepreneur:
Issa Rae

Photo Credit: Taylor Jewell

As we approach the 2019 Women In Film Annual Gala, we are excited to profile each of our distinguished honorees. We hope that you’ll be able to join us on Wednesday, June 12, for what is sure to be the event of the summer: an inspiring and lively night celebrating women who are changing the entertainment industry for good.

One of the extraordinarily talented women that we’re featuring at the Gala is Issa Rae, the first recipient of the Women In Film Emerging Entrepreneur Award.

This new award honors a promising talent in the fields of film, television, and/or digital media, whose professional pursuits are resulting in progress for the next generation of talented women. Its recipient has demonstrated a foundation for her career comprising of accomplishments marrying creative achievements and business acumen.

With her own unique flair and infectious sense of humor, Rae has received an Emmy® nomination and two Golden Globe® nominations for Best Comedy Actress for her hit show, HBO’s “Insecure.” Her web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” was the recipient of the coveted Shorty Award for Best Web Show and her first book, a collection of essays, is a New York Times Best Seller. Rae made her film debut in the acclaimed drama THE HATE U GIVE, and currently stars in Universal’s LITTLE, with Regina Hall and Marsai Martin. Her company Issa Rae Productions has been involved in numerous television series and movies, including the upcoming series “A Black Lady Sketch Show” and “The Dolls,” in which Rae will also star.

In 2014, Rae founded ColorCreative, along with Deniese Davis, to increase opportunities for women and minority writers to showcase and sell their work, both inside and outside the existing studio system. ColorCreative aims to discover and support emerging talent by facilitating development, production, and distribution of their original scripted and unscripted content. Rae moderates ColorCreative’s curated series of conversations with influential creatives about their unconventional journeys. This program, called A Sip, is purposely set in South L.A. and communities of color across the nation to inspire by bringing artists and creators to their audiences in a meaningful, personal way.

In a 2018 cover story for Glamour, she discussed her work, her internal compass, and how she’s perceived:

“‘There was no blueprint to do this. There was no one I could look to be like, “Oh, so-and-so made some videos and then had a television show, and then did movies,”‘ she says. ‘You kind of just do it.’

“… In this light, it’s possible to view Rae’s body of work as a form of activism. She is creating opportunity within our community to discuss complicated ideologies about everything from sexuality to mental health to blackness while presenting us as we are: proud and talented and innately worthy of screen time.

“… [‘Insecure’ is] a show that, much like Rae, never stops evolving. ‘I am always striving to get better. I am always thinking, OK, how can I top this? Or, how can I learn from this? I just never want to be complacent,’ she says. … She’s not interested in someone telling her what version of herself—or her voice—is marketable. ‘I want to control that,’ she says, giving me a knowing look. ‘I don’t want anybody else to control that.'”

Earlier this year, Rae was featured in on the cover of the Essence beauty issue. In an emotional Instagram post, she wrote, “Four years ago, when all I had was a web series and a book, Essence put me on my first cover with four incredible women I look up to: Ava [DuVernay], Mara [Brock Akil], Shonda [Rhimes], and Ms. Debbie [Allen]. It was their ‘Game Changers’ issue and I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe they chose me.’ That cover meant so much to me because it validated my work on a platform I respected AND it was a nurturing recognition of promise, a promise that I didn’t necessarily see in myself at the time. Four years later — entering the fourth season of my TV show, and shooting my fourth movie in New York — they honored me with this solo cover. Thank you, Essence, for helping me to deliver on that promise you saw years ago, and changing the game for me.”

It’s exactly this promise that perfectly encompasses why she is such a worthy recipient of the inaugural Women In Film Emerging Entrepreneur Award. It’s laying the groundwork for the next incredible strides Rae will take in her career, and it shows in the way she paves the way for more promising talent. She, and the characters she writes, are providing the kind of unapologetic representation of blackness and women’s experiences that Hollywood has historically undervalued.

In this profile, the director of LITTLE, Tina Gordon, said, “Issa comes with this fierce intelligence about the whole film. She’s effective, productive; she sees the big picture. And I think she brings all of that experience into the room with her as an actor. I can just always see Issa’s mind working. She’s just a thoughtful actress who’s experienced every role imaginable—writer, producer, probably caterer, everything.”

Join us at the 2019 Women In Film Annual Gala as we celebrate the innovation and entrepreneurship of Issa Rae, Amy Poehler, and the rest of our honorees, on June 12, 2019 at the Beverly Hilton. Click the image below to purchase tickets.