So… as you all can tell BGLH has some serious ABG fever, lol. I’ve posted two “Misadventures” episodes, as well as a few “F Word” episodes. I had a chance to speak with the genius behind both series — a lovely natural and ’07 Stanford University grad named Issa Rae! She talks about ABG, life as a budding filmmaker and, of course, hair! Check it out;
First off, how did you come up with the idea of doing a web series about being black, female and awkward! So many black women instinctively know that they’re awkward, but few think to express it in media.
I: I came up with the idea a couple of years ago just from my own “secret” thoughts and experiences with people. It was during a time when I was frustrated with the black female characters I was seeing in the media and I realized that this “awkward” character hadn’t really been explored or portrayed in anything I’d ever seen. I feel like social awkwardness is universal and I thought it would be funny to portray it from the POV of an awkward black girl.
Are any of the awkward events taken from your own life? Is there a real-life Fred, D, J, Nina or Cece?
I: It’s definitely an exaggerated version of my life. There isn’t a real life Fred, D or Nina in my life currently, but they’ve all existed at one point in my life, whether middle school, high school or college. CeCe is based on one of my real life best friends but, again, she’s an exaggerated version. The boss is a combination of encounters I’ve had with “wiggas” and overly-curious white people.
I’m also a huge fan of your other web series, The F Word. It’s hilarious! Do you write those episodes yourself, or do you just direct. What is the process of writing those episodes?
I: Thanks for watching and posting Fly Guys! They’re HILARIOUS and have an undeniable chemistry. We actually collaborate in terms of writing the episodes. I generally come up with a story outline based on some of their songs and then, based on that story outline, they improvise. Before each season, we meet up and come up with a theme for the season, i.e. Season 3 was the Girlfriend season, Season 4 was the White People Music season and Season 5 was the Entourage season. Then we come up with ideas for the series from there. Season 6 premieres July 4th!
How did you get involved with the Fly Guys?
I: Well, enimaL is actually my little brother. We used to have a fake rap group when I was in high school and we both sucked, but it was fun. When I went away to college, he started taking rapping more seriously and got really good. He formed a group with Tone and DJB and they’ve been taking their music seriously ever since. When I left New York to come to L.A. in 2009, my brother told me how a song they made as a joke, “Penny, Nickel, Dime” was blowing up on the internet and so I told him I wanted to do a music video for it – to maximize their exposure.. During the shoot, they all had me cracking up and it was pretty much a no-brainer to do a show centered on their attempt to make it in the music industry.
A lot of black women complain about lack of representation in the media. As someone who is actually creating a positive representation, I’m sure you have a unique perspective. How can we, as black women, go about creating media that is affirming to us?
I: I think we, as black women, need to just create the media ourselves. If you have an idea, get a crew or get your friends together and make it happen. Right now, pitching your idea to a network exec or an industry liaison just isn’t working, because they have this limited perception of black women and what they THINK black women want to see on screen. I think the web is the best way to go right now, and I’ve seen a lot of GREAT shows come off of the internet.
Is there any chance that we will see Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl or the Fly Guys on the small screen? Is there anything in the works?
I: I’m happy to say that there actually IS a chance. I’m working with a team now to make that happen, so we’ll see what the future holds!
Is producing ABG and Fly Guys your full time gig? Or is it a second job?
I: Producing ABG and Fly Guys is definitely a second job that I’m trying to make my main job. As of now, I still work 9 to 5, so everything is on tight schedule for me – but I’m hoping to change that soon. It’s definitely difficult to juggle both things. Coming home from work after an 8‑hour shift to write, edit or shoot is exhausting, but I always remind myself that I WANT to do this. Producing, Directing and Writing are my biggest passions and I will always make time for them … even if it means slacking on my day job. *Shrug*
So, one of the things I first noticed/loved about your series is that you’re natural! How long have you been natural and why did you decide to go natural?
I: Thank you! I’ve pretty much been natural my whole life. I tried a perm once in the 8th grade and it just messed my shit ALLLL up. So, since then I’ve always kept it natural, in an afro puff. I may press it, or braid it or weave it, but I always have nappy roots.
I definitely went through a period where I wasn’t proud of my natural hair. I just didn’t know what to do with it and wanted the ease of “white girl” hair. But over time, I realized that this is MY hair, this is what I was born with and I love it. Why change it? Let me work with what I have. So, now I love my hair and wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s your regimen?
I: I wash my hair every 2 days and condition every day. I use African Herbal Oil for my scalp. I love to use natural products, like Olive Oil and Shea Butter to moisturize as well. Every now and then, I deep condition with eggs as well. Pretty much everything I do with my hair I’ve taken from friends and/or seen on this site.
What’s the best/most effective thing that you do for your hair?
I: The most effective thing I do for my hair is condition and oil it every single day. My hair gets dry and sucks up any and all moisture, like a thirsty ass plant. So, conditioning it daily and putting oil in it helps me to retain that moisture throughout the day.
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from.
I: Well, definitely the perm. I will never EVER perm my hair again. It’s just not good look, and my mom tried to warn me, but I didn’t listen. Also, wearing braids for too long and/or anything that puts too much pressure on my edges – I’ve learned to stay away from. I don’t use any products with any type of alcohol anymore, because they’ve broken off my hair in the past as well.
Anything else you want to add?
I: Because of the success of ABG and people sharing the link with friends, I’ve been able to get representation! I’m officially rep’d by United Talent Agency and 3 Arts Entertainment and so I’m excited to see what the future holds for me. Thanks to YOU and to everybody else for spreading the word about ABG and Fly Guys. There is more to come!