Embracing the Awkward, One Webisode at a Time
With her Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl Web series, Issa Rae captures the angst of brown women everywhere -- and has caught Hollywood's attention in the process.
But the show is not just for the black community -- Rae's razor-sharp one-liners cut across color lines. "Hair is the best thing to happen to rhythm-less nonblacks," jokes J, who admits in last month's episode that she can't dance. Sure, the joke is ostensibly about race. But who hasn't seen someone "whipping their hair" because they couldn't "do the wop"?
"Issa is telling universal stories with characters we're not used to seeing," said Andrew James, who plays A, the office nerd with whom J had a regrettable one-night stand. "I believe black people and nonblack people are yearning for these characters without even realizing it."
Nearly every day, Rae gets "hit up" by other awkward black girls who wonder how the screenwriter knows so much about their constant struggles with self-consciousness. " 'I swear you're hiding in the bushes and filming my life,' " Rae quoted from her growing fan mail. " 'This is my story! How did you know?' "
Rae sent a similar letter to Love & Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood nearly a decade ago. "That movie just changed me," she said. "It was a simple love story. I hadn't seen that. And the fact that it was written, produced and directed by a black woman made me think that I could do it, too."
So a 16-year-old Rae did just that. She wrote her own feature film and promptly sent it to Prince-Bythewood for feedback.
The acclaimed writer-director actually wrote Rae in return, encouraging the budding screenwriter to keep at it.
"The fact that she wrote me back was just the tightest thing in the world to me," said Rae, a Los Angeles native who went to Stanford University to major in African-American studies and political science.