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Issa Rae is Fighting Colourism in Hollywood, One Episode at a Time

‘Dark-skinned women still portray a certain archetype and I want to change that’

Insecure‘s Issa Rae is known for breaking boundaries and subverting stereotypes and, as season three approaches, the writer, producer and actress reflected at #InsecureFest on how her show made an impact on representation of authentic black women, by black women.

HBO celebrated the soon-to-be released season three of the tragicomedy series, following Issa and Molly as they navigate life as young professionals in Los Angeles, with #InsecureFest. #InsecureFest featured a jumbo slide, performances by 2 Chainz and Saweetie, and an exclusive screening of the first episode of the new season.

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Issa is uprooting racism in the entertainment industry by supporting black artists, designers and actors who are excluded from contributing to the culture in mainstream media through her show.

How Issa continues to pave the way for POC artists

Ayanna James, wardrobe consultant on the series and the woman responsible for giving us Issa’s empowering collection of black-culture tees, told Teen Vogue that Issa actively creates opportunities for emerging designers of colour.

‘It’s important to give a platform to those who supported you from the beginning and those who can truly benefit from this,’ said James. ‘The average consumer shops online most of the time now, so it’s much easier to find and support brands that truly represent some of us. Additionally, it allows for nuance and details with characters when I do a bit of digging. It helps layer the show with culture.’ Stylist Shiona Turini is taking control of the threads for Insecure season three, and carries the show’s tradition of empowering designers of colour.

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Issa puts black women centre stage and makes them priorities in her narratives. Touching on the issue of colourism, Issa vocally advocates for roles for dark-skinned black women and not just the roles relegated to them.

Dark women are either portrayed through the struggle narrative, are seen as stone-cold women with impenetrable emotional fortresses or are hyper-sexualised. Issa wants to change this.

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‘Dark-skinned women still portray a certain archetype and I want to change that,’ she told Teen Vogue at Insecure Fest. ‘They’re either super-strong, emotionless, robotic — or hyper-sexual, and you don’t get the in-between very much.’

Issa’s co-stars seem to agree.

Natasha Rothwell, who plays the wise-cracking, sharp-witted character Kelli on Insecure, says she’s relieved to play a role that’s not one-dimensional.

‘My character brings a lot of the comedy to the show, but she’s not a caricature,’ she shared. ‘She’s grounded, she’s thoughtful, she has feelings and emotions that she wants to express in supporting her friends. And you’ll see more of that this season.’

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Yvonne Orji, who plays fierce lawyer Molly, hopes other shows continue to break ground. ‘I want the portrayal of dark-skinned women to evolve in such a way that you see us as multifaceted,’ said Yvonne. ‘We are more than just the sassy friend or the maid. We’re so dynamic. We can be the leads.’

What can we expect from season three?

Obvs the fresh critical analysis of what it means to be a young black women in 2018 we’ve come to expect from the show, but there are also a few surprises viewers won’t be expecting.

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Lawrence, a main character in season one and two as well as Issa’s long-term (now ex) boyfriend, won’t be making an appearance in season three. Y’lan Noel, who plays Issa’s ex and current roommate Daniel, described the theme of season three in three words: ‘Girl, stop playing.’

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