One on One With Jo-Issa "Issa Rae" Diop
Jo-Issa “Issa Rae” Diop
Hometown: Los Angeles
Big Break: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
Current Project: Insecure
Born Jo-Issa Diop to parents Abdiulaye and Delyana Diop, this Los Angeles native has been serving some serious melanin on the Hollywood scene. From producing the YouTube series “Awkward Black Girl” to the hit TV series “Insecure”, Issa has proven to be a force to reckon with, which has landed her a Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series and received the Rising Star Award the American Black Film Festival Honors.
Where did you get your inspiration when you wrote the script for Insecure?
In the writers’ room, we talk about our lives, have debates and arguments and stay true to our stories. Even today, talking about a specific storyline, we never want to take a specific stance. We always just want to start conversations that lives in the grey area of things—that’s where things are most interesting—when we are just like, this is something that we all go through but have different views or interpretations of. That’s what art is and should do.
The writing staff on “Insecure” is mostly comprised of women. How does that help your creative process?
I remember sometimes we would split into rooms to focus on episodes. One room would focus on episode one and another room would focus on episode two. And when we split rooms we realized—and it would just be random—that it would just be women. One of our guy writers actually happened to be out of town, and it was literally the week when bombshell after bombshell, dude after dude was being taken down [in the storyline].
Tell us about the process of Awkward Black Girl, what did you learn from this?
In creating the first episode of Awkward Black Girl, I had to pull so many resources together and I had to hit up a couple of random people. Even in editing it myself, trying to tell the story because I couldn’t afford to get the shot that I wanted or go to this location that I wanted and piecing that together, there’s so much creativeness in brokenness. Brokenness will have you making it work. You’ve got to hold on to that broke energy because so much of that stuff makes you relatable.
You’ve mentioned before that “bald head changed your life” what does that mean and where did the idea come from?
I was trying to get Awkward Black Girl off the ground and I tweeted something like “I wish someone would just break up with me so that I could have an excuse to shave my hair off.” Then I was like that’s a funny plot line of like a show or something. So I put it on Facebook and all my friends were like OMG do it, you’re about to be so ugly, what if you have like a weird-shaped head. I saw how much attention I was getting and I thought what if I used this? I should shave my head and then do a trailer for Awkward Black Girl where I feature my baldhead and that way people who want to see what I look like will also know about this new show that I’m trying to do. I did it and got 3,000 views in a day. I had a bald head and I had a fresh start. That bald head changed my life.