The insecurities that often dominate our thoughts can eclipse our dreams and aspirations. Yet, storytelling rooted in truth and vulnerability serves as a powerful tool to quell such self-doubt. For me and many others, Issa Rae stands as an inspiring example of this, epitomizing how it is possible to triumph over life’s awkward phases.
As we acknowledge those past figures who have shaped our community, during Black History Month I want to recognize Rae for being a significant contemporary influence. Showcasing the strength that comes from embracing authenticity, her approach of “networking across,” staying rooted in truth and not taking life too seriously distinguishes her and inspires others.
It has not only won her countless fans but industry recognition—among her honors are the Shorty Award for Best Web Series (2012) for Awkward Black Girl, the BET Award for Best Actress (2020), the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Comedy Series for Insecure (2021) and the Peabody Trailblazing Award (2023).
A pivotal moment in Rae’s journey, crucial to her current success, was witnessing a live TV taping of Moesha, where she also won a copy of the script. Using this as her blueprint, the ideas that lay dormant in her mind and journals gained the momentum needed not just to walk but to run. This highlights her humility in acknowledging those who paved the way before her and underscores the significance of representation in her journey—without seeing a lead character like Moesha in a world that centered Blackness in a positive and truthful light, Rae likely would not be where she is today.
Embracing her authenticity and naming her experience for what it truly was, the title of Awkward Black Girl practically stared her in the face. As a burgeoning creative and college student who, like many others, grappled with social anxiety, Rae transformed these moments into opportunities to reflect in the mirror, finding solace in laughter, rap or tears. Her introduction of a nuanced and satirical form of storytelling demonstrated the healing power of combining comedy with truth in any situation.
As one of the first creatives to go viral with her early YouTube series, Rae paved a path for others. Utilizing storytelling as a therapeutic outlet, she not only healed herself but also resonated with anyone navigating similar feelings of awkwardness or insecurity. This audacious choice underscores the notion that the universe favors those who choose themselves.
Transitioning seamlessly to television and the movie screen, Rae’s dedication to continuous growth and evolution is truly commendable. Her ongoing journey unfolds as a narrative of resilience, boldly embracing authenticity rather than conforming to expectations. Evolving from a media sensation to a mogul, she consistently sets new standards as a storyteller, entrepreneur and ultimate way-maker. Overcoming the challenges of young adult life, she transforms each experience into opportunities for learning, teaching and empowerment, embodying the essence of an icon in both artistic and professional realms.
Rae continues to set an example as she ascends, infusing humor into every stride. She stands as a symbol of hope for the Black and creative community, gracefully blending confidence with humility, endearing her to us all.
A Philadelphia native, Cameron Hubert majored in cinema arts and sciences at Columbia College. He is presently based in Los Angeles, where he is assistant to Lee Daniels at Lee Daniels Entertainment.