Issa Rae: She’s Embracing Awkwardness

January 17 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: What’s Normal Anyway?

There’s a word that’s been bugging me lately: normal. If you look at Facebook groups, online forums and the like, you’ll see tons of comments from women asking what others do so they can measure themselves by what’s supposedly “normal.” When you type “Is it normal…?” into Google, you’ll see more than 1.8 billion responses. Defined as “conforming to a standard,” “normal” is a word we should reserve for test results and mathematical equations instead of applying it to our value as humans and women. I say we embrace that wise internet adage: Normal is just a setting on the dryer!

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: Twice as Likely

When you base who you are on who you think others are, life gets messy and anxiety rears it’s ugly face, often leading to depression or other disorders. In fact, anxiety is a more common affliction than you may think. In fact, it’s quite—ahem—normal to struggle with anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 40 million adults in the U.S. have some sort of anxiety disorder, with women being twice as likely to suffer from them. However, the good news is that anxiety disorders are treatable, and the majority of people struggling with anxiety can find relief through professional care.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Issa Rae, Actress and Writer

There’s a reason you might think your anxiety is abnormal. The media depicts it either incorrectly or as the butt of a joke. Thankfully, there’s one woman who’s fearlessly changing how anxiety is portrayed on screens throughout the world. She is the lovely and brilliantly sharp-witted Issa Rae, the creative force behind the award-winning web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which she stars in, as well as the author of a best-selling book by the same title.

From one awkward situation to another—like running into her ex, attending a get-together with new friends and traversing the trials of office life—Issa’s character, J, navigates it all with the discomfort most of us experience every day, but with a welcome sense of humor most of us lack.

With the widespread success of her web series (The first episode alone garnered almost 2 million views!), Issa is now taking on television, bringing her fresh, unfiltered and hilarious voice to HBO as the first black woman to create and star in a premium cable series. Her half-hour show, Insecure, premiered in 2016, and earned Issa a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination.

On the show, Issa and her best friend deal with it all—professionally and personally. They’re the lead characters in their own lives, all the while supporting each other and tackling an array of insecurity issues along the way, and displaying an African-American perspective not often seen in the media.

Insecure hits on notes of Issa’s own past and present life. Growing up, she lived in both Maryland and Senegal, and would typically start a new school every couple years. That instilled a sense of independence in her, as it forced her to endure plenty of awkward fresh starts. It wasn’t until Issa attended a school with a majority of black and Latino kids that she started to recognize and embrace her personal identity.

Rather than writing for the traditional audience of the past—white dudes—Issa and her team of diverse writers tell stories they and their communities connect with. That kind of honest, true-to-oneself approach is just one reason Issa was clearly born to be a star, awkward insecurities and all!


Let’s end today’s story with a powerful quote from our intrepid Woman to Watch, Issa Rae:

“I thrive on obstacles. If I’m told [the story] can’t be told, then I push harder.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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