Issa Rae is Ushering in a New Era of Comedic Voices

Issa Rae is Ushering in a New Era of Comedic Voices

For its November issue, V honors the change-makers driving pop culture forward. Next up is comedian Issa Rae, who landed an HBO show with her YouTube channel clout.

For its November issue, V honors the change-makers driving pop culture forward. Next up is comedian Issa Rae, who landed an HBO show with her YouTube channel clout.

Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Jay Massacret

Text: Joshua Lyon

The designation “YouTube star” usually sends shudders up most thinking people’s spines, conjuring images of whiny confessional videos or spicy pepper challenges. Not so with Issa Rae. She may have gotten her start on the online video platform, but her scripted series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (a moderately fictionalized version of Rae’s life, full of cringe-inducing yet utterly relatable scenarios) is much more stimulating than typical Internet fodder. The show resonated hard with viewers looking for a realistic reflection of their own experiences. “Being able to accept [my own awkwardness] and to find others who identify the same way has been oddly comforting,” Rae says. “Ironically, my insecurities have made me the most confident person.”

Her two-season series went viral,  racking up over 20 million views, enough for HBO to take notice, resulting in her show, Insecure. “Coming from the internet, you can have an idea, create it, produce it, then put it out for the world to see and get an instant response,” she says of her jump from web to premium cable. “I’ve never taken so long to put something out. It was challenging because I’m an impatient person, but it was so worth it. Every draft made it better and stronger. Also, now I have a budget!”

The higher production values certainly make things look more polished, but it’s Rae’s scripts that truly make Insecure glow. Her honest depictions of relationships, friendships, and absurd coworkers, mixed in with welcome over-shares of what really goes on in a person’s head, make for some of the most essential television viewing of the year. “I’m so happy to be a part of this time where there are so many stories of color,” she says. “We have such a long way to go, but it feels like we’re entering a new era.” 

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