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Issa Is Not Scared

Star Speaks Out on Unfairness in Hollywood

Issa Rae / Vanity Fair

If someone has to do it, why not her?

As one of the most respected Black actresses and producers in the entertainment industry, Issa Rae has earned the credibility of mastering her craft. After the breakout success of her hit series “Insecure,” Rae has continuously advocated and pushed for an increase in Black representation throughout the media. Since the most recent announcement of one of Rae’s beloved series “Rap Sh!t” was canceled, fans and audiences responded negatively to the news and expressed their frustration for the decrease in Black opportunity.

Rae has been tagged with one of her favorite and iconic slogans “I’m rooting for everyone Black,” but what happens when the positive intention is constantly being shut down? According to Time Magazine, “Rae has faced growing pains: she had to lay off eight employees during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes; navigate a labyrinth of California business laws; and watch as her projects got sidelined or canceled.” Perhaps worst of all, Rae says she witnessed Hollywood backsliding on pledges to increase representation and diversity. “I’ve never seen Hollywood this scared and clueless, and at the mercy of Wall Street,” she told the Time. Despite white counterparts not having to necessarily experience any unequal opportunities throughout the industry, it’s a constant tug-of-war for Black representation. It can almost seem like taking one step forward, but then being pushed back many steps. It’s important for audiences to understand who the “key” players really are in the industry and the majority of them don’t have Black skin.

I thought this was a very introspective and mature interview. Rae opened up with authentic insight, despite having the potential backlash of fans and critics due to her transparent opinions. One part of her interview that truly stood out to me was her acceptance of having to sometimes make tough decisions in the moment regarding Black representation for a greater future benefit. According to Time, “Rae has long made it her priority to create pipelines for people of color, but as she scales upward, she’s learning more and more about how to balance her personal entrepreneurial priorities with a larger fight for equity. ‘I recognize that I have to do well economically to be able to make change,’ she says. ‘That’s frustrating, that’s ugly. But I recognize that money moves things faster—and so much of what I do is with the intention to help make those moves.’ This doesn’t mean that Rae is a sellout or that she’s going back on her word whatsoever, but in order to make change, you unfortunately have to manipulate the system as much as you’re able to.

Rae’s creativity and entrepreneurship gives fans excitement that they’ll be able to watch her grace their screens again in the future, but the Hollywood industry still needs to address questions that need answering. Gen Z has become a promising token for the future that we’re not going to stand by and let things happen anymore, that we’re going to take over the new positions and incorporate the equality and representation that’s deserved.

 

By Kori Barnes, University of Southern California

Instagram: @korixnicole

 

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Written by Kori Barnes

Hi! I can eat an entire jar of pickles in one setting and I LOVE to binge watch shows on Netflix. One of the most important quotes to me:
“and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

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