Issa Rae is my Spirit Animal
I am a single, educated, nerdy black women; so no one should be surprised that I tuned in to watch the premiere of Insecure on HBO. I never watched Awkward Black Girl, Issa's popular Youtube show; I really only use Youtube for music videos and hair tutorials. Either way, I thought I'de give Insecure a chance and by doing so I quickly discovered that Issa Rae is my spirit animal!
Issa's character by the same name is not Cookie, or Dr. Bailey, or Olivia Pope. Side note, it took me a long time to come up with three black female TV characters , but that's another blog post. Issa doesn't really have a commanding presence, she's not sassy, she doesn't have witty comebacks, she doesn't fall into that "strong black woman" stereotype and neither do I. In the first episode, Issa couldn't even sum up the courage to break up with her boyfriend, in episode 2 she's still crashing with her best friend Molly just to avoid the confrontation. Olivia Pope juggled an affair with the president and a deadly assassin; Issa bought underwear from Rite Aid to avoid her boyfriend. In those two scenarios, I will always be Issa.
I feel like each week when I tune in, I can commiserate with Issa and her struggles. I too wonder if my career is right for me or did I just settle after college. I question my love life or lack thereof, I sit at home wondering "is this it for me?" or "I just want to be that woman." The woman who goes after her dreams, demands what she wants, has the Monday, Wednesday, Friday fuck buddy rotation. The woman who gets up on the stage and raps about broke pussy. The woman who wants to be Olivia Pope but fear gets the better of her."I just don't want to be afraid to do shit," Issa says to her best friend Molly over brunch. I've been saying the same thing to myself for the past year and a half.
I'm not trying to undersell Issa though and make her out to seem basic. We shouldn't compare the Cookies and Olivias of the world to Issa. One may have a better wardrobe than the other but that doesn't make them better. Not to mention how detrimental the "strong black women" stereotype can be for real life black women. Black women are expected to be the matriarch and the caretaker. We can never show fear, vulnerability, or weakness. It's even an expectation that we put male black lives before our own. What Issa's character, as well as her best friend Molly, demonstrate a glimpse of the black women behind the curtain. Who are we when we get off of work and wrap our hair. When we cease having to perform blackness, you realize that we are just human too. It's nice turning on the TV to not only see someone in a lead role who looks like me but legitimizes my life and all its insecurities.
I am Issa, hell Olivia at one point probably was Issa too. We all have a little Issa inside us fighting for the day to claim our stage.