On Thursday, March 18, the Student Union Board of Governors hosted a Q&A with actress, producer and writer Issa Rae, the star of the webseries “Awkward Black Girl” and the Emmy-nominated TV show “Insecure.” University of Connecticut student Aliyah Hayes moderated the discussion with Rae about the efforts to combat Black stereotypes in the media, the actress’s career and the final season of “Insecure.”
Rae’s career has been centered around portraying complex and multifaceted Black narratives. With the last season of the show “Insecure” approaching, Rae offered her thoughts on stereotypes and stories.
“The power comes in showcasing our [black women’s] vulnerability and our weaknesses and kind of combating those narratives,” she said. “I just try to paint a full picture of who we are.”
The statistics don’t lie when it comes to representation of the stories of people of color in the media. The 2020 UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report in 2020 states that only 1.5 out of 10 film directors were POC in 2019. Another article on the website OpportunityAgenda.org cites studies that show that negative representations of Black Americans on TV are exaggerated, especially when portraying them as criminals. These negative representations can in turn lead to distorted perceptions by viewers, which fuels antagonism and racist stereotypes.
Rae actively fights against stereotypes.
“When I say yes to do a film, I’m going to put in my contract or express explicitly that I don’t want to do this unless you have a diverse crew,” she said.
Rae’s determination and ambition to display diverse stories in the media has led to critical acclaim for her web series “Awkward Black Girl,” and her film debut in the movie “The Hate U Give,” a story adapted from a book of a young Black girl dealing with themes of police brutality, racism and poverty. Below is the trailer from the movie.
Aside from Rae’s experience with multimedia, be it show, an internet series or film, she says that it’s important that people use their voices to promote Black artists.
“Social media has democratized who can be seen and when you’re championing an artist online, when you’re sharing them, when you’re telling everybody about them, that helps. That is a currency,” Rae said.
The internet is a powerful tool for creating diverse content. Rae’s time with her web series “Awkward Black Girl” is one example of how audience feedback can lead to more diverse stories. Rae said she used the positive feedback on “Awkward Black Girl” to show studio executives that people want these types of stories.
“I had the internet to prove these stories are stories that people want to see,” Rae said.
Even with “Insecure” coming to a close, Rae is set on creating more content.
“I’m already working on a new show called Rap Shit, that is currently writing and is set to shoot in Miami in the summer,” she said.
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