Issa Rae Shares How Personal Fear Inspired Her Work Amplifying Underrepresented Voices at The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Gala

By Lexy Perez

Issa Rae received a standing ovation when she was honored with the Equity in Entertainment Award at The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment breakfast gala, presented by Lifetime, held Wednesday at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

Yvonne Orji presented her Insecure co-star with the Equity in Entertainment Award, which recognizes individuals who amplify the voices of underrepresented communities in the entertainment industry.

Rae began her speech with an amusing anecdote from a trip to Las Vegas with her friends, for an Usher concert — her love for the singer, she joked, “outweighs” her hate for Vegas. While there she said she took a weed juice can, which led her to later “sink into this lonely, scary, paranoid, timeless loop.”

“That’s what happens to me. And this loop is really frightening because all I do is think repeatedly about and replay all the things that I’m most terrified of,” she said. “And one of those things is the idea of my mortality and the mortality of those that I love. And one of the mind loops I was in had me aging really rapidly.”

She went on to say that when she asked her friends whether she looked old, a friend pointed out that that’s seemingly been on Rae’s subconscious, “getting old generally and feeling like time is running out.” The fears, she explained, proved to be a motivating factor for her work creating inclusive content reflecting diverse voices.

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“I’m asked about amplifying underrepresented voices and diversity all the time. And one of the questions I get often and frequently struggle to answer is, ‘Why is it so important to you to give opportunities and open doors for others who look like you?’, ” Rae said. “But now I think it’s all about time. I’m obsessed with the time that I have left and a small window that I have to make the changes that I want to see before I hopefully get old and die. I think operating from that scared place is actually really helpful because it makes you impatient about waiting for shit to happen. And it makes you fearless about the things you normally might be afraid of, like rejection, embarrassment or diminishment.”

“So, in a sense, I want to say thank you Hollywood Reporter for rewarding my paranoia. I’m gonna keep moving, like I don’t have many moves left,” she said before thanking her team and paying tribute to an actress, writer and producer friend who died suddenly last week.

“We met on a small digital shoot back in 2011 and became really fast friends when we realized how much we had in common in our industry pursuits,” Rae said. “And she was always very intentional and aware of time and made the absolute most of it.”

Rae’s honor follows the mogul’s longtime series Insecure ending last year — she received her third Emmy nomination for best actress in a comedy this year. With a five-year overall deal with WarnerMedia, Rae, via her Hoorae production company, created and executive produced HBO Max comedy Rap Sh!t, and is also developing a revival of docuseries Project Greenlight. She recently appeared in B.J. Novak’s Vengeance, is part of the cast of in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and will voice the role of Spider-Woman in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

THR’s Women in Entertainment gala was sponsored by Best Buy, Cadillac, Spotify, eOne, FIJI, Gersh and SAG-AFTRA and in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, Chapman University, College Access Partnership and Loyola Marymount University. The gala took place in conjunction with the publication of the Women in Entertainment Power 100 list.

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