Issa Rae Recalls When a Non-Black TV Executive Tried to Tell Her What Black Audiences Like

In a taped segment for last night’s 72nd annual Emmy Awards ceremony, Insecure creator and star Issa Rae recalled a non-Black producer’s remarks that had her “fuming” during her first Hollywood TV pitch meeting.

“My first Hollywood pitch was kind of unofficial,” she began. “Basically, I had this web series. It was the third web series I had ever made. The executive was like, ‘Yes, I saw your show. Funny stuff, funny stuff.’ And I was like, ‘Um, thank You.’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, it’s about this Black woman and her Black woman problems. Hilarious.’ And I was like, ‘That’s not what it’s about, but okay.'”

After that not-so-charming introduction, Rae detailed further transgressions. “He 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 who’s not Black telling me what Black people like. And it just became very clear to me that he didn’t get the show, and I remember just fuming in that meeting. Why does he get to tell me what gets to be on TV? Why does he get to tell me what people like me like to see? I’m here. I’m telling you what I like to see. I made it.”

Rae obviously persevered, succeeding in creating HBO’s hit comedy-drama series Insecure, which has since garnered multiple award nominations and wins, including an Emmy.

“For me, that moment was the motivation I needed to keep doing what I was doing. To kind of bet on myself. And that fueled me, like, ‘Oh, okay. I’ll show you.’ One of us got fired after that,” she said, ending the segment with a knowing laugh.

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