Written by | Ray Cornelius
Her website reads “producer-writer-director” but Issa Rae is so much more than that.
She is recognized as a pioneer in the digital web revolution that is taking over YouTube and is also one of many featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Rae’s groundbreaking web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is seen by thousands of followers each episode and has opened doors for her to executive produce four other web series including Ratchetpiece Theater and RoomieLoverFriends.
As one of Hollywood’s most sought after content contributors, Rae has already inked deals with Shonda Rhimes and ABC, Pharrell Williams’ I am Other and most recently Tracey Edmonds and her new web channel, Alright TV. In addition to all of this, she is starring as the legendary jazz musician, Nina Simone in an upcoming biopic about the life of Simone’s friend and playwright, Lorraine Hansberry.
If that’s not enough, Rae is also one of the co-hosts of ASPiRE TV’s new talk show, Exhale. It’s a new women-led program which features candid and lively discussions about everything from relationships to careers to health and beauty and religion.
Recently, I caught up with Issa Rae during the Atlanta premiere of Exhale. We discussed an array of topics including the new talk show, her new web series The Choir, her love for all things ‘ratchet’ and why she loved Beyoncé’s song, “I Been On (aka Bow Down Bitches).”
Check out a few excerpts from that interview:
On what makes “Exhale” different from “The View”…
I love the women that I’m working with on Exhale. It’s just so amazing to be around Black, strong, intelligent, and funny women. (LOL) It’s like I have made friends overnight. And to be in an environment where we support each other is so outside of what mainstream media portrays of us. You’ve seen them showing how Black women don’t get along. We’re rowdy. We’re loud. We’re obnoxious. And that’s just not us…We (Exhale) represents different types of Black women. Everyone may not relate to us but you know someone like us. Exhale is similar to The View, in that it’s hosted by five women but that’s where it ends.
On her new project The Choir, produced for Tracey Edmond’s Alright TV…
I am excited to be working with Tracey Edmonds. She has a new premium YouTube channel called Alright TV and it’s like faith friendly content. People who know me say, “OMG, you’re doing faith friendly stuff?” (LOL) Because I am not very religious and what I like about her channel is that it’s not “bang you over the head” religious programming. And The Choir is not about that either. It’s about exploring the dynamic of a church choir. I used to sit in church as a child and was never drawn to the sermon or message but to the choir…to the music! So looking at them, I would often wonder what their life was like outside the church. “What they were doing the night before?” “What are they talking about in the stands?” “Why does one have an attitude with the other?” (LOL) Its explores the deep relationships between the choir members as their church is dying.
On why she adores the ‘ratchet’…
It’s ok for me to be awkward and love stupid, ignorant rap music. A lot of my friends are like that. It’s ok to project one thing and be or feel something entirely different. That’s what I do with Awkward Black Girl and Ratchetpiece Theater.
On why she loves Beyoncé’s 3-D personality and her song, ‘Bow Down Bitches’…
I loved Bow Down Bitches. For one, I feel like that’s Beyoncé’s personality. Too often, especially as Black women, we have to be one thing and she has to be this, what? Pop R&B diva and maintain this certain image. But as soon as she did Bow Down Bitches, everyone was like, “Oh no, you can’t do that. This is who you are!” And I hate being held in a box. Nobody is one thing, ever. That’s why I appreciated that song because she was like, “Fuck it! I’m gonna talk about my haters and tell them to ‘Bow Down.” What I appreciate the most about Beyoncé now is that she has a 3-D personality and she has a well-rounded projection of herself. She’s has an entire threshold of music where she didn’t say “Bow Down Bitches.” Get over it!
On the fusing of television and the internet…
I think television is trying to figure the internet out. And TV is worried. The film industry is also worried because people are so impatient now. People don’t want to leave their houses and pay $15 to see a film when they can stream it online or watch something that is free and available online. I think models like Amazon and Netflix have the right idea where they are taking the data they already have of the people and their preferences. Netflix was like, our consumers love Kevin Spacey and political thrillers and we’re going to make a show out of it. That’s revolutionary because you’re catering to a specific audience and you’re guaranteed to win.
Exhale airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST on ASPiRE