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When I enter the West Hollywood studio area where our cover shoot takes place in February, my attention is immediately drawn to Issa Rae, who sits impeccably in front of the camera. For someone who wore an extravagant mix of baby pink feathers, pink satin, and huge heart-shaped crystal earrings, she had a rather serious expression on her face. "You wear such things and ask yourself why," she later jokingly admits to me. "For the gram, that's it."
Rae sinks down on the cracked leather sofa next to me, after swapping the fluffy Prabal Gurung ensemble, I saw her for the first time in a relaxed athleisure look consisting of black leggings, a t-shirt, and sneakers. but it maintains its balanced posture. We have 11 days before the end of the year and while everyone in my orbit is recapitulating the last 365 days of their lives in carefully created galleries on Instagram, Rae is going full steam ahead in 2020, She has just completed production for the highly anticipated fourth season of her award-winning HBO series uncertain, will be released on April 12th (mark your calendar) and will be shown in two successive feature films this spring. Further projects are already in preparation. Last fall she signed a contract with Atlantic Records to found her record label Raedio and became a co-owner of the black-owned and operated Hilltop coffee shop in her hometown of Inglewood. Oh, and did we mention that she also owns two manufacturing companies? We all like to think subtly about how busy we are, but it was Issa employed, "It feels like a lot, " she says worried about the coming year "But I'm just looking forward to people seeing what I'm up to."
She’s particularly excited when people watch her two new films –The photographya drama from the heart, and The Lovebirds, a romantic detective story, of which the former hardly show any traces uncertainIssa, the funny, confident 20-something that we all know and that we find it so difficult to deal with. This character will always be part of her. The series is loosely based on Rae's semi-autobiographical web series The awkward black girl's misfortunesBut she is ready to show us how diverse the real Issa Rae really is.
"I want to try different things and see what I can do," she muses. "I don't just want to play myself, I also want to be able to experiment." Some of the things I plan to actually do are very different. I don't want to be caught in a comfort zone. I don't want anyone to put me in a box."
The first step outside your comfort zone comes in The photography, a romantic drama that deals with love, loss, grief and family and with LaKeith Stanfield (Go out. Uncut gemstones), suitable for this Valentine's Day. But Rae admits, "I think people just expect me to be funny, and the character just lost her mother, so she goes through it. Of course, the film contains humorous elements, but that's not the driving part of the character, what's new to me because I lean on humor. It was a defense mechanism for much of my life. I think that's my concern because my comfort zone is humor. So it was interesting not to be able to rely on it in this film."
During our one-hour conversation, I learned that Issa works best in this tendency to challenge itself. Expansion, growth, self-discovery – that has always been her main task, but at the moment it is a particularly difficult time for the actress, producer and author nominated by Emmy. She said openly: "This year will decide whether I have a long lifespan on a certain page or not." At that moment I could feel how this vulnerability rose in her. "If these films do you good," She continued with more urgency, "Then I have more options. If they don't, I couldn't. But I'm not a person who puts all my eggs in one basket. I have too many baskets."
Continuing uncertain, Actors in back-to-back feature films. Start of a record label. Co-owner of a coffee shop. Operation of two production companies. Yes, there are a lot of baskets. What motivates a person to branch out in so many directions? I asked myself. Are there moments when she bites off more than she can chew? Sure, but it all depends on your goal to raise the people around you. "There are a lot I like doing," she said, and her voice became more confident. "I love being behind the scenes. I love to produce. I like to write. I love the business. We have a new record label and even there other artists are made in an area where I am weak – I cannot sing. I am not a rapper. I am not an artist, but it is very exciting to work with people who have this talent and to lend what I know to help their careers. "
Raedio tries to connect music artists with film and television projects and to help the creators in one industry find opportunities in another. If you watched uncertain Since day one you have known how much Rae has invested in the music world. Her Peabody Award-winning HBO series featured independent Los Angeles-based artists such as Saweetie, SZA, Blood Orange, and many more. This is thanks in part to the soundtrack curated by Solange Knowles and Rae's passion for paying attention to promising young talents.
When she started uncertain In 2016 she took care of putting together a team full of creative people. uncertain is uncertain Because of the producers, the cast and the costume designer up to the soundtrack and the designers that Issa wears on the show. It is a show full of discoveries. If you're looking for a showcase of the best known and emerging talent in their respective fields, uncertain is it. A notable new addition to the set is Shiona Turini, a former fashion designer who has developed into a costume designer and all-round industry. Turini was brought to the show in the middle of last season, but the upcoming fourth season, which Rae beamed, is where she really shines. "I trust her very much," she tells me. Turini has already introduced Rae to countless new designers, many of whom are black and some African. "And I just love what she brings to the series because the wardrobe makes up so much of the identity of these characters and she understands that. It's very in tune with the development of certain characters and what we're going to do. "
Rae's mission to provide platforms for the people around her doesn't just happen on the set of uncertain, It is the driving force behind all their endeavors, and the newest way of expressing this goal is to bring the most democratic space of all to life: a first café in the community in their own neighborhood of Inglewood. She tells me that the decision to become a co-owner of Hilltop Coffee was made immediately and that she needed urgently as a young creative person who wrote everything in coffee shops. "To be in those rooms where you only see other people working – people who look exactly like you," she says, "there is nothing stronger than that." That's why I wanted to participate. And then only the natural networking that takes place there … I think many of these rooms – I think of Soho House or The Wing – are rooms that are supposed to bring together like-minded people or, I would say, like-minded people. We just don't get them in our community. "
Rae, I'm learning, is a yes woman. But the fact that she has no previous knowledge of a coffee shop, for example, can hardly deter. She says yes first and then emphasizes the logistics. "Oh yes. You're right," she says, mimicking that she won't always be able to handle things herself. "I'm not going to grind the beans and stuff. Cool."
Grinding coffee beans may not be at the top of your resume, but being an entrepreneur is paramount. She runs two of her own production companies – Issa Rae Productions, which focuses on projects she wrote or starred in, and ColorCreative, which she founded uncertain Producer Deniese Davis, who works to provide visibility and opportunities for women and minority film and television authors. ColorCreative is her passion. When she tells me about the work she does there to put voices on the map, she takes on a mix of pride and passion. It is immediately clear that the studio is the soul of her work. It's personal – Rae herself was a young black girl from the south side of LA with her own dreams – but it's also political. There's no denying that white talent is the default in Hollywood.
Sure, we saw blockbusters like that Crazy rich Asians and Black Panther blow it out of the water, but they remain the exception, not the rule. According to the latest UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, Color film authors are underrepresented five to one, which makes up only 7.8% of their industry.
“Since 2014 we have discovered underrepresented writers and given them different platforms or helped them find and represent employees,” she explains. "And we had so much success there just because we have them on the radar for the industry." It's no small feat to get them represented so they can get more jobs. This is what I ultimately want my legacy to be."
Actor, writer, producer, music lover, owner of a coffee shop. I am convinced that there is no project that is too intimidating and no role too foreign for Rae, as she continues to take on new roles as an actress and broaden her growing number of dividing lines. If it makes us laugh until April uncertain, makes our hearts swell The photographyand keeps us up to date The LovebirdsThen I can only imagine what else she has up her sleeve in 2020 – let alone the rest of the decade.
Photographer: Taylor Rainbolt
Stylist: Jason Rembert
Hairdresser: Felicia Leatherwood
Makeup Artist: Delina Medhin