Alumna Issa Rae brings her wit and wisdom back to Stanford


Photo of Issa Rae gesturing with her hands.
Issa Rae at the Black Community Services Center. (Photo Credit: Kai Kane Aoki Izu – Institute for Diversity in the Arts Fellow)

When ISSA RAE was thinking about colleges, the then budding teenage cyber nerd who loved creating her own stories, thought a university in lower Manhattan well known for its school of the arts was the place for her. But after 9/11, her parents told her they wanted her closer to home.  After that, Rae, who attended middle and high school in Los Angeles, set her sights on Stanford.

Rae is now a producer, writer, director and actress best known for her web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which chronicles the travails of a woman as she navigates her job, love life and numerous other less-then-smooth social situations.  Rae packed the Black House (BCSC) – recently to talk about her career and read from her new bestselling memoir  by the same name.

“Coming to Stanford was the best decision I ever made,” Rae said during a talk, which was sponsored by the BCSC, the Institute for Diversity in the Arts (IDA) and the Program in African & African American Studies (AAAS).

the-misadventures-of-awkward-black-girl-by-issa-rae-2-650x979Rae graduated from Stanford in 2007 with a major in African and African American studies and a minor in political science. During her undergraduate  years, she produced several video and stage productions on campus including a Motown adaptation of Grease. She said being in a place that was not “full of artsy people,” forced her to develop her own projects and collaborate with others on campus to bring them to life.

Since her graduation, Rae has been on the Forbes magazine “30 under 30” list twice.  Awkward won a Shorty Award in 2012 for Best Web Series and has garnered 25 million views and has 200,000 subscribers. She developed a series for ABC and is currently developing a half-hour comedy series on HBO.

She said much of what she learned in her undergraduate classes has served as an intellectual foundation for her work. The other key to her success has been the ability to cultivate and nurture her networks, many of which were  formed right here on the Farm.

“The advantage of being here at Stanford is that there’s an opportunity to stand out and to find a community of like-minded people who create stuff together and work together and that’s so important,” Rae said.