Humility Is Out: Issa Rae Accepts Her Due


Laurie and Debbie say:
Issa Rae, a very talented black actress and comedian who first gained attention for The Misadventures of  Awkward Black Girl, just won the first Emerging Entrepreneur award at the 5th Annual Women in Film Gala in Los Angeles.

Her acceptance speech is being variously described around the web as “comic,” “flipping the script,” and “nailing it.” As you will hear if you click the link above, she said “none of the artists I admire are humble,” and proceeded to give a  self-congratulatory speech (“entrepreneur means I did this shit myself”), with funny alternatives to thank-yous, and an absolutely self-possessed delivery.

In less than two minutes, Rae manages to do three skillful things:

  • She makes fun of award speeches in general, and thank-yous in particular, so her speech is funny.
  • She absolutely rejects the “humble artist” role, which women (and especially black women) are expected to occupy all the time, so her speech is pointed.
  • She embraces the competitive nature of the business she’s in (“I’m closing the door behind me”), so her speech is transgressive.

Both her speech and her delivery evoke one of the most famous songs of the 20th century: like Frank Sinatra, she delivers the loud and clear message “I did it my way.”

It shouldn’t be exceptional to see a talented artist giving herself the credit she deserves.