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Issa Rae Says Hollywood Gatekeepers Still Undervalue Black Projects: ‘It’s Insulting’

Multi-hyphenate Issa Rae is still “rooting for everybody Black” as she continues to champion narratives and characters the Black community can see as reflecting them. 

The creator and lead actress of HBO’s “Insecure” has also made it a priority to help other creators of color have an opportunity to thrive in the entertainment industry by building a talent agency, Color Creative, and her own record label, Raedio. But even with her success as a television writer and director, Rae says Hollywood is still slow to support projects that resonate with Black audiences while instead catering to white audiences and offering a hint of diversity and culture.

Issa Rae celebrates “Insecure” Emmy nominations and win along with the cast and crew. (@issarae/Instagram)

“I have found that there are certain types of stories from Black creators that just don’t get greenlit because there is still an impression that they won’t translate [to white audiences] or they won’t sell,” she recently told Fast Company. It is a frustrating reality for countless Black actors, producers, writers and directors who’ve echoed this sentiment for years.

And even with the success of shows such as “Living Single,” “Girlfriends,” or movies such as “The Best Man” franchise and “Moonlight,” Hollywood’s decision makers are not unanimously sold on the viability of Black projects.

“It is frustrating that studio executives are gatekeepers, deciding what Black stories are worth telling. It’s insulting,” said Rae.

She continued, “There’s so much more to tell beyond the dramatic or historical stories about the Black struggle. There are things we want to see beyond that. We still don’t get much of the “slice of life” content or romantic comedies with two dope Black leads. There are still so many stipulations about what Black stories I am allowed to tell.”

Rae got her start in the industry with her web series “Awkward Black Girl.” From the success of that web series she was able to launch others, and gain the attention of Hollywood. But her success did not guarantee approval from white executives who had already determined what Black audiences like.

In fact, in 2020, Rae recalled how that narrative showed up during a pitch meeting.

“He [Hollywood executive] was like, ‘Yeah, but you know, the Black audience, they want to see familiar faces. So, you might need to switch up the characters.’ And, mind you, he’s this executive that’s not Black telling me what Black people like,” she recounted. 

Despite the frustration, Rae kept moving forward and as a result created “Insecure,” which was nominated for eight Emmys in 2020. She also landed a leading role alongside LaKeith Stanfield in the romance film “The Photograph.” 

And to kick off the new year, the 36-year-old announced she is working on a new show for HBO along with rap group City Girls that is tentatively titled “Rap Sh-t.”

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