To Be Awkward, Insecure and Black
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If you don't know Issa Rae's name, you should. If you don't know her name, you probably will this fall when Issa's first TV show Insecure debuts on HBO. For fans of actress, writer and my imaginary BFF Issa Rae, the show has been a long time coming. After gaining a huge following for her brilliant web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, there were rumours Issa would be getting her own show. She even signed a deal with HBO in 2013 but the show had been stuck in development for years – until now. The trailer for Insecure is finally here.
"Why do you talk like a white girl?" THIS. I’ve heard this more times in my life than I could count. The trailer is good. Really freaking good. I AM SO EXCITED. I promised Lainey I wouldn't write this whole post in Kanye caps but I will gush, hard. I've been a gushing about Issa Rae since her online series went viral in 2011. It portrayed a black woman as quirky, weird, funny, sexy, insecure and layered. It portrayed a black woman as a relatable human being. What a concept. The New York Times called Issa’s Awkward Black Girl character “Liz Lemon but with more melanin.” You can binge all episodes here.
There is not a show on television right now that depicts the millennial female black experience. Of course, that experience is not singular but it doesn’t exist on TV, period. I watch a lot of television. I relate to a lot of shows but nothing compares to my connection to shows like Moesha, A Different World or Girlfriends. It’s 2016. Where did those shows go? The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl was the most relatable series I have ever watched.
During the early part of my career in TV, I did some work in front of the camera. As soon as I put my face in front of that red blinking light, it gave people, executives mainly, a free pass to say racist sh-t to my face. An executive once told me I was "too smart" and to be "sassier" while snapping his fingers. According to him, I needed to be sassy "so my personality matched my look."
This is a real thing that someone said while I could hear them. I was not allowed to be awkward and nerdy and black. Those things did not go together in this executive’s tiny white man brain. I discovered the Awkward Black Girl online series shortly after that encounter. It was a revelation. I found myself yelling “YAAASSS” at my computer screen before yelling “YAS” was even a thing. If you are a black woman, when you walk into a room, there is an expectation of what you should sound and act like. A lot of those expectations come from television. So, when I read a synopsis for a show that simply reads, “Insecure looks at the friendship, experiences and tribulations of two black women,” it’s hard for me not to get emotional.
In the New York Times piece I mentioned above, Issa talked about the frustrations of not seeing relatable stories on screen.
“How hard is it to portray a three-dimensional woman of color on television or in film?... I’m surrounded by them. They’re my friends. I talk to them every day. How come Hollywood won’t acknowledge us? Are we a joke to them?’’
With this trailer, it looks like Issa will get the last laugh.
Insecure is produced by Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-executive producer Prentice Penny with OG TV writer Larry Wilmore as a consultant. There are people of colour in front and behind the camera on this show. This is everything we hope for when we talk about television and diversity. I CAN’T F-CKING WAIT.
Attached - Issa at the Diversity Speaks Panel during the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival earlier this month.