I had the great fortune to see a preview of Issa Rae’s new HBO series Insecure at a screening in Chicago this week. After the screening Issa talked to Chaz Ebert about her journey from her web series Awkward Black Girl to Insecure, which included many potential derailments.
I remember meeting Issa at the Celebration of Black Writing in Philadelphia back in 2011. She had a similar conversation about her path, which included meeting with at least one major network who wanted her to develop a series like ABG, but asked that a light-skinned/ non-black woman be cast in the lead role. They wanted her talent, but not her voice.
Issa was also asked to develop a series for Shonda Rhimes, but that fell through as well. Issa explained that the ill-fated I Hate LA Guys didn’t take off because she tried to change what she wanted to say to fit the kind of series the people at Shondaland were looking for. When she presented them with the pilot, they passed on it. They wanted her talent, and some of her voice, but she ended up changing her voice so much that, even after making the changes they requested, it wasn't a project that Shondaland wanted.
I can say that Insecure is definitely Issa’s voice. It has all of the components that made Awkward Black Girl so popular with the writing, development and resources it has always deserved. Issa was patient and it paid off.
An opportunity that asks you to change your voice is no opportunity at all.
Protect Your Voice,