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Interview with Issa Rae; Writer, Star & Producer of Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

Avatar • Jun 13, 2011

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!

Ladies, what are your thoughts? Previous postings of Issa Rae’s work are here, here and here. Issa’s personal website is here.

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DanaMichele
DanaMichele
9 years ago

I watched all of the ABG episodes while twisting my hair last week, and they are all hilarious! I eventually watched a few of the “F Word” episodes as well. I think my favorite ABG episode is the one where Fred throws a birthday bash. Too funny! Keep up the good work Issa Rae!

antonia
9 years ago

thanks for this interview! after watching the last ABG episode here i spent the rest of the day on youtube watching the other series. kudos to issa rae! these are hilarious!

prism of an immigrant
9 years ago

I liked the interview. She’s done a great job with the web series

Laila
Laila
9 years ago

I love what this lady produces. It’s funny and well thought out. It’s also fantastic as it widens the portrayal of black women. Not everyone resonates with the sassy finger clicking stereotypes. HILARIOUS. please keep doing what you do. I’m a big fan

pinkgirlfluff
pinkgirlfluff
9 years ago

Yay! I just love her work! She deserves to have her work on the small screen. We NEED this!

anastasia
anastasia
9 years ago
Reply to  pinkgirlfluff

We do NEED this, and besides, the ABG and F series are hilarious!!! Thanks BGLH and Issa Rae!!!

Alisha
9 years ago

I’m so glad you did this interview. I love ABG (I think because… well, I think because I’m an awkward Black girl, too… sigh) and I’ll be checking out “The F Word” soon, too.

HoneybeeBrown
HoneybeeBrown
9 years ago

Love her. She is gorgeous.
ABG is excellent. I also love the dorm diaries—the stuff is sooo realistic I am unclear if they are acting or is it a documentary.

Issa Rae should be on Saturday Night Live. If they don’t scoop her up they are crazy.

America not ready for ABG though on Saturday Night Live–it would blow their mind to be exposed to the truth: Every black woman is not NeNee, Star Jones, or Lil Kim.

I mean really.

Bevy
Bevy
9 years ago

I love the ABG series!! Seems to be getting better with every episode. Keep it up girly!

Jonesable
Jonesable
9 years ago

Love this show. Need more shows like it. Hope this becomes your full time gig

teresz
9 years ago

Love ABG and Fly Guys. I’m completely hooked now. Thanks for representing awkward black women. Would love to see this on the small screen. Keep up the good work 🙂

Ings
Ings
9 years ago

ZOMG I love ABG ! I keep forgetting to watch all of dorm diaries. I truly hope that her show does well. We need people and shows like hers to push the current shows off of our TV screens. Her show is just quality entertainment !

Leo the Yardie Chick
Leo the Yardie Chick
9 years ago

I so need to get my new computer so that I can watch her ABG series. Plus, she’s right — if we want to see better and more accurate images of Black Women/Women of Colour period in the media, we need to do the damn thing ourselves.

RaeChardonnay
RaeChardonnay
9 years ago

The boss is a combination of encounters I’ve had with “wiggas” and overly-curious white people.”

LMAO… She is too funny! I’m such a fan of this series. Can’t wait for more!

vonnie
9 years ago

yay!!! i’m so excited and waiting with bated breath to see what happens for Issa and ABG 😀 awesome series and love to see us doing big things 🙂

JL
JL
9 years ago

Issa Rae, you rock!! i keep my fingers crossed that some big producers find you and you get all blown up on the small screen and big screen!!! 🙂

Asia
Asia
9 years ago

OMG i love the ABG series!!!!! ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! its the only entertaining thing on youtube i look forward too lmao!

CoilyRob
CoilyRob
9 years ago

Every ABG is hilarious! As an ABG myself, I can definetly relate. Keep up the great work.

Agbeke
Agbeke
9 years ago

I love this show! Thanks BGLH for introducing me to quality entertainment 🙂

kn
kn
9 years ago

love ABG and the Fly Guys.. watched EVERY single episode and can’t wait for more of Issa Rae’s work!
SN: enimaL is her brother, yo! 🙂 lol

Joanna
Joanna
9 years ago

OMG I love ABG and I’m super happy at how succesful it has become/is becoming. I hope it makes to the small screen because it’s truly a remarkable series!

bOh0.B@rBie
bOh0.B@rBie
9 years ago

First, you are gorgeous Issa! Secondly, I love that I get comic and emotional relief from watching the ABG series. Thank God for giving you your vision and thank you for bringing y(our) stories to life!

nne
nne
9 years ago

I really hope that TV deal goes through. It would be nice to have some good black television again. So tired of that Tyler Perry trash.

charisma
charisma
9 years ago
Reply to  nne

thank you! so sick of Tyler Perry and his monopoly on the “black” film industry.

CollegeCurl13
9 years ago

This is so amazing! We love her over at my blog! Great interview. I’ve seen all of her stuff and I’m hooked!

artofbeingcool.blogspot.com
would love if you came to visit 😉

Sumayyah
9 years ago

Thanks so much for this interview with Issa Rae! I love ABG and The “F” Word. I am so happy to see more Black women on (and behind) the screen that are unafraid to be honest and down to Earth. Keep it up!

luvs
luvs
9 years ago

Yay! ABG on television, I am real excited about that!

Christina C.
Christina C.
9 years ago

wow enimaL is her brother. i see good looks run in the family. i hope to see her work on tv and movies one day

Godiva
Godiva
9 years ago

I am watchin the “Dorm Daries”… it is too funny, I also went to Stanford. I LOVE her series.

BlaqueInfinite
9 years ago

Thank you! As an aspiring filmmaker, this was very inspirational. I love to see other black women representing us in an organic, positive light.

alicia
9 years ago

I am an Issa Rae stalker. I looove the ABG series and have put all my friends on to it…so much we qoute from it. “Ignore!” Love it!!
You’ve inspired me to finally get to writing my crazy stories down so my mouth won’t keep going dry from telling them!!!

a black girl
a black girl
9 years ago

Totally awesome!!!

BeautyIAM
BeautyIAM
9 years ago

I’m really happy with everything she is doing. I’ve been turning all my friends to the show. Great concept! I hope this inspires more black people to just go out there and do their own thing 🙂

A
A
9 years ago

Great interview. Love what you are doing Issa! Thank you!

Florida Steph
Florida Steph
9 years ago

Thanks Leila for this interview! It answered some of the questions I had wondered about. My daughter and I love the ABG series!

NinaG
NinaG
9 years ago

Yay! Love Issa Rae’s work

Toya
9 years ago

Thanks so much for doing a story on Issa Rae! I love what she had to say about black women creating media for themselves. There is so much diversity in the black experience and it’s up to us to do what we can to be represented. I’m looking forward to her getting to do what she loves full time.

Haviland Clarke
Haviland Clarke
9 years ago

Issa Rae is a genius..love ABG and Fly Guys had me cracking up all last week as I only discovered them on BGLH..thanks for putting me on..I am a fan and will follow whatever projects she produces or stars in..keep up the good work and Im spreading the word where I am to follow you as well..

ForcedSimile
ForcedSimile
9 years ago

Issa!!!! If she only knew how many times I’ve rewatched ABG. I’m started Fly Guys a few days ago. They crack me up and I love them so.

Yes, I want her series on TV. Either of them would be great.

Courtnee'
Courtnee'
9 years ago

I’m not going to lie…I downloaded all of the ABG episodes and put them on my ipod. I LOVE this series so much that I needed to be able to watch them on the go. I even have my mom watching them now.

I started watching Fly Guys and Dorm Diaries, but I’m not done with them yet. Loving what I see so far though. Issa puts the crap on tv to shame.

chouxchoux
9 years ago

OMG!!! I LOVE both of the those shows, ESPECIALLY ABG!! Issa Rae is so awesome! Her character always has me cracking up!

an ABG
an ABG
9 years ago

Issa Rae- Awkward Black Girls worldwide salute you!

Mikxtr
Mikxtr
9 years ago
Reply to  an ABG

Salute! Salute!

HoneyNut
HoneyNut
9 years ago

Issa Rae, the neighbors know your name cause i for dam sure just screamed it out when I saw that bglh interviewed you. You’re amazing! I LOVED the premier episode of ABG, just freaking genius. I felt like the next couple episodes didn’t quite match up to the first, but after the most recent installment, I’m back on board! I can’t wait to see what direction you’ll take this series in, as well as your other ventures. Keep Shining! You’re already a star! 😉

Lili
Lili
9 years ago

She has a really nice skin tone. & I love her face

Aptlife
Aptlife
9 years ago

Had no idea enimal is her little brother! Awww, love seeing sibs with tight bonds.

Congrats Issa on your representation! That is HUGE and I hope we get to see more of your projects on a larger scale.

:leaves to re-watch ep 5:

Lady
Lady
9 years ago

I love ABG and the Fly Guys, I’m such a fan :-). So nice to see a young black woman like Issa Rae make her dream happen for herself. Love it!

lulu
lulu
9 years ago

I love her!!! I pray her show gets on the TV!

deela
deela
9 years ago

I had to post on this story. Girl you are too funny! Every since BGLH got me started on your episodes, I have been hooked, lol. I look forward to the shows and foward them. You definately have talent and I hope one day it is discovered. My favorite episodes of ABG was this last one of the party and the second one with your boss and Nina.Keep up the good work. I would love to see ABG in Theaters:)
LovingMeTees

Carolynn
9 years ago

She is great! Congrats to her! I know we will cee her work on the tv screen one day;)

Cherchez la Curl
9 years ago

Seriously funny stuff! I think this could totally work on HBO/Showtime or cable. Shows that are far less funny have been given the green light (and allowed to live a long tortured/low-ratings existence) because of the powers that be…this could definitely, definitely work

rtoriq
rtoriq
9 years ago

i am so happy for her, and i don’t even know her. LOL. All i know is i stumbled on it a while back on another site and put that stuff up on BLAST on facebook, and so many people loved it, even a good friend of mine said it was me and her (although she tried to later say it was just me LOL, da hell?) And it was so bomb because i’m weird (yet sexy too.…*sexy pose for the camera*) yknow and it gets hard sometimes to balance my sexiness and awkwardness, yknow? Like salsa dancing while eating… Read more »

Uniqzoe
Uniqzoe
9 years ago

I love the ABG series, very funny! Issa Rae has an intellectual, witty sense of humor that I love. I wish her much success in the future.

trackback

[…] can hear Issa and the cast talk about the show here and read interviews with her here, here and here. And ABG is on Twitter […]

DOMiiNiiQUE
DOMiiNiiQUE
8 years ago

Just got my sister into watching ABG. she loves it too. Issa Rae reminds me of my old friend that moved away. looks just like her and comical too. i swear you too could be long lost twins lol.

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8 years ago

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youngin girl
youngin girl
6 years ago

I’m going to have to agree. There are no rolemodels on tv for young girls. I have been noticing that. I love Janelle Monae, Gabby Douglas, Michelle Chrisette, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey but there are more negative portrayed on tv for us to look up to than positive. I like all the old past time historical figures but they are long gone and dead. I’m talking about today. I’m glad that this site talks about issues that are relevant, effective and significant. I’m glad I ran into this site and kept continuing to come here. This site shows how… Read more »

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