Issa Rae is MIPCOM Personality Of The Year for 2018 and she receives the award at a gala ceremony Wednesday night. She doesn’t particularly like award ceremonies — but this one is going to be different. “I don’t like award ceremonies that don’t have food,” she said. “But there’ll be food here.”
That this award comes from the industry, and recognises the worldwide success of her work is another bonus, she said, although that success — notably with her HBO series Insecure — comes as a surprise to her because the shows aren’t made with an international audience in mind. “I think on a very local level. I think of family and friends first; I think about whether or not I am doing Los Angeles justice. And the fact that my neighbourhood — which is a very specific part of southern LA — is translating across the globe, well I’m just beginning to get my head around it. Because we are very specific and use specific cultural references — American cultural references, black cultural references. So yeah, the fact that is working around the world is so cool to me.”
Rae’s on-screen presence and infectious sense of humour have led to Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress for Insecure. Her web series, The Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl, won the coveted Shorty Award for Best Web Show, and her first book, a collection of essays, is a New York Times bestseller. Rae’s upcoming feature films include an adaptation of Angie Thomas’ novel The Hate U Give, and Little, with Regina Hall and Marsai Martin.
But acting wasn’t part of her original plan and even now it’s not her first love.
“I started out focusing on directing and producing and it wasn’t until I really got into Awkward Black Girl that I started to think ‘Yeah, I kinda like this’. But even now I don’t think of myself as an actor first,” she said. “I consider myself a writer and producer first. I can have fun with acting, but I can take it or leave it.”
Having started out on the web and now enjoying the freedom that creatives enjoy on HBO, Rae has managed to avoid the commercial restrictions of network television in the US, something that suits her personality perfectly. “I did go from an internet show to a network show but it didn’t work out, I think for those very reasons – and also because of some of my own personal shortcomings,” she said. “I felt like I was trying to appease and fit into a box that I didn’t fit into. It doesn’t seem like it’s for me.”
While capable of writing and performing some risque material, Rae is also very much a family person — so do the two things sit comfortably together? “Absolutely not! My mum hates it,” she said. “Even when I used to produce and direct my little brother’s show — he had a huge YouTube hit — she hated it. The language, how his friends would refer to women and all that. And it’s the same with my own shows. It’s like, she’ll say, ‘Why did I even bother with parental control and having you not watching R-rated movies, if you grow up to be making these things that you couldn’t watch as a child?’ But I’m not a cub any more. But it’s also not lost on me and I want to produce content for the little girl in me. I think that’s something I want to do next.”
Issa Rae will receive the MIPCOM Personality Of The year Award from Reed MIDEM CEO Paul Zilk “in recognition of her generation-defining influence on the entertainment industry” at a gala dinner Wednesday night at the Carlton.
This and more in the MIPCOM News Issue three, read it in full here…
This article was written by Julian Newby and edited for MIPBlog.