Are Black Women Getting More Opportunities In Entertainment Just a Trend? Issa Rae Offers Her Opinion on Pharrell's OTHEROne Podcast

Illustration for article titled Are Black Women Getting More Opportunities In Entertainment Just a Trend? Issa Rae Offers Her Opinion on Pharrell's OTHEROne Podcast
Photo: Steven Ferdman (Getty Images)

Fellow The Root staff writer Tonja Renée Stidhum and I have a running list of entertainers who never sleep—John Boyega is rapidly climbing up the power rankings—and almost always taking the top spot is the Awkward Black Girl herself, the incomparable Issa Rae.

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During a recent appearance on Pharrell’s OTHERtone podcast, co-hosted by Scott Vener and former Star Trak recording artist Fam-Lay, the Insecure co-creator dished on whether she believes that Black women in entertainment have more opportunities available to them than their predecessors.

“Yes. Positively, yes. But also, no,” she said. “I mean, on the positive side, yes. Absolutely. I feel like doors are being opened so much so that now I can’t even hire or collaborate with some of them, because they’re all getting snatched up. People are constantly sending emails like, ‘Yo, can you recommend anybody?’ Or I’m looking for a Black female showrunner, I’m looking for a Black female upper executive writer, all these things. So we’re in demand in that way.”

She added, “But I will say that, and I’m not going to relegate it to a trend at all, because I know that we’re empowered, but they’re, on the pitching side, I have noticed that there’s still certain types of stories that they’re looking for from us. And I think there’s a disconnect there. So it’s like, yes, you want us, but you want us to tell these specific types of stories and it’s not quite, we don’t get to tell every element of what it means to be a Black female, what it means to be a female. Um, and so in that way people need to get with the program, but, in time.”

So does she believe things are going in the right direction?

“I think so,” she continued. “You know, I think that there’s just [...] You guys know what it is. Once something is hot and is pointed out, then people are going to latch onto it. And they’re going to be like, okay, everybody’s talking about Black women. Oh, everybody’s talking about ‘believe Black women,’ everybody’s talking about ‘the most disrespected person in America is a Black woman.’ Like that came back into play. And then you have people kind of jumping on that and wanting to be able to have a Black female spokesperson and that’s not lost on me also. It can also make you insecure of just, like, “Oh, do you want me for my talent? Or do you want me, because you think you’re supposed to have me?”

Considering this month marks the 10th anniversary of her groundbreaking web series, Awkward Black Girl, it’s interesting that she broached this topic, considering that many of those doors that were opened for other Black creatives—and especially Black women—she opened herself. But to her point, while there are far more opportunities—in part due to the cultural phenomenon known as Insecure—it’s also important to be leery of the intentions of those who extend them.

Check out the rest of this episode of OTHERone on your podcast platform of choice.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.

DISCUSSION

cldarrow
C_Darrow

Potentially entirely unrelated comment here, because I don’t know if the adult entertainment included a black female or not, but I just read that Larry Flynt was paralyzed by a white supremacist who got upset because there was an inter-ethnic couple. I assume that meant black and white.

First of all, the fact that some guy thought it necessary to try and kill Larry or the fact that they didn’t even cover the shooter’s racism in the Flynt movie is curious. But not surprising since racism has been so expected. Maybe now if we can acknowledge our racism past, we can move past it and entertainment parts won’t be limited due to the audience’s prejudiced views on who can play what role. Let people get roles based upon talent and skill, not due to a fear that an audience could not see this person in that role due to race or gender.