Dear Issa Rae
Ode to girls who aren’t slim, but aren’t too big either. Ode to big chops and sporting a small crown with no fear. Ode to equilibrium of woman, clumsy and sensual, awkward and beautiful.
We are real.
However, within Hollywood, the media, and other forms of the aesthetic that persuade the mind, we’re rarely seen in our averageness. I find it difficult to find myself within the fictional characters that unravel before my eyes. However, in Issa Rae’s notorious YouTube series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” I can spot my idiosyncrasies, every episode, from a mile away.
As artists and creators, we are guilty of placing pieces of ourselves within the confines our craft. I saw Issa Rae speak at the Influencer Con, this summer, and I was sure I was going to witness an entirely different woman, than the one I saw depicted within her series. This also includes, her role on Black&SexiTV’s “The Number” and her solo “RatchetPiece Theatre.” Laced in a cardigan, Converse sneakers, wooden bangles, and glasses, her simplicity stuck out to me. While she spoke about adoring instant feedback for her web series and cyber racism, I couldn’t help but see my reflection within her.
This was heightened by her story of a father who’d emailed her to tell her, that because of her show and quick come-up, his daughter was no longer ashamed of her natural hair, that she was being teased for.
She was quirky, funny, incredibly intelligent, and yes even a bit awkward. I was taken aback that her mannerisms, minus J’s Tourette-style raps and succumbing to her annoying co-workers, were awesomely similar to her character’s. I could see a correlation between J, Issa Rae, and myself as well. So, I decided to write this letter:
Dear Issa Rae and/or tidbits of J,
I don’t know if anyone has ever told you, but you reflect the predominance within us. I’m suddenly comfortable with my fro, thickness, and clumsiness when you flash across my screen. I often ran home to write rhymes and poems about boys/men who did not appreciate my swapping of third-grade PB&J. Who am I kidding? I still do that now, sans the trading of lunch.
I frequently pass the control-freak, in the hallway at work, and have daydreams of the different ways I could trip her. I’ve fantasized about the brown skin man who’s come in and simmered every on looking female’s soul (and that one gay intern), but never had the courage to truly say hello.
I imagine full out scenarios, atop the brownstone steps of Harlem, to some Rent/hip-hop inspired musicality, belting out my love for brown skin and my disdain for my own Nina-like control-freak standing across the street, with smoke blowing from her ears.
But the truth is, I haven’t stumbled over the boundaries that J has and I’m just crossing the threshold of freelancing, as you’ve done, some time ago, with screenwriting.
Is it just me, Issa Rae, or is it difficult to make it here? Even when you’re behind the scenes, aren’t you still cognizant of the onlookers/haters ready and willing to fling their opinions at your heart? If you are, it doesn’t look like it.
On or off the screen.
Your pride seems to dangle from every movement. You will not allow yourself to be confined and you’ve broken out of the boxes they’ve tried to put you in. As an evolved suburbanite, living in Brooklyn, who writes raps in secret, who ran into her car after telling her boyfriend that she liked him and spent a week avoiding him, I get your protagonist. I also get Issa Rae, an image I’ve been waiting for, a black woman who seems to fit perfectly into different circles, a chameleon to her industry.
Bereft of superficiality, your writing is the perfect hybrid of what we’re all thinking and feeling, but too self-conscious to say. We appreciate your protagonist’s embarrassments, showing us that the art of awkwardness is one that is universal and commonplace. We are not alone, those of us with or without Ceces, when it comes to stumbling through life.
That much is clear.
“RivaFlowz” is a teacher and professional writer living in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter: @rivaflowz.