Issa Rae on representation: ‘I prioritize making dark-skinned women desirable’


Issa Rae did a feature with the July issue of Cosmopolitan. The photos are… okay. There’s some extreme makeup looks going on, which Issa can pull off, but few others really can. Issa is promoting Insecure, she’s promoting her CoverGirl contract, and she’s promoting the changing standards of beauty. It may sound dumb, but it just MATTERS to see Issa in Cosmo, or on the cover of a fashion magazine, just as it matters when we see Mindy Kaling or Lupita or Priyanka or Eva Mendes or Melissa McCarthy. “Beauty” should not default to slender white women. So, that’s what Issa talks about and more with Cosmo. You can see the feature here. Some highlights:

Why confidence is a continuum: “Confidence comes from knowing your sh-t is good. I’m for sure confident when it comes to work and trying to fulfill my dreams. Socially, the confidence has teetered, but that’s growing as I’m coming into who I am.”

How she doesn’t hear the haters: “There comes a point when you have to block it out but remain humble—that’s the balance I’m trying to navigate.”

Why appearances are personal: “I’m going to look how I want to look—it’s going to be on my own terms. If people criticize my look, it really does not matter to me. It’s about how I feel.”

On that season two glow-up: “I thrive off fresh starts. I will do a cleanse or diet—I need a reset button. So seeing myself on TV for a season was an excuse to be like ‘I want to lose a couple of pounds.’ I want to look my best, be my best, and feel my best.”

Becoming the face of CoverGirl was: “Kind of surreal. Like, ‘Wow, y’all are choosing me?’ It was for the little girl in me who never thought that this would be possible. There’s power in representation. There’s affirmation in representation.”

How she wants women of color to be seen onscreen: “I prioritize making dark-skinned women desirable. You don’t see a lot of dark-skin representation. That’s been overlooked. Also, seeing them as beautiful, in addition to desirable, which are two very different things.”

Why body lotion is life: “I have dry skin. My friends will be like ‘Girl, did you actually put on some lotion?’ My favorite one is called Kiss My Ash from Naturals by Gina B. It smells so good.”

[From Cosmopolitan]

Lupita said some similar things when she got her Lancome contract, that it’s important to increase the visibility of dark-skinned women because so-called “Western standards” affect the whole world, and women around the world consume those images. But Lupita generally speaks of the representation issue as a beauty issue, where Issa says, “I prioritize making dark-skinned women desirable… seeing them as beautiful, in addition to desirable, which are two very different things.” YAS. That’s what she does with Insecure, and in life. She’s amazing.


Photos courtesy of Jason Kim for Cosmopolitan, sent by promotional Cosmo email.

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13 Responses to “Issa Rae on representation: ‘I prioritize making dark-skinned women desirable’”

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  1. Jensies says:

    I…am feeling her and the yellow dress and the makeup, but not dress and makeup together. I think the dress color is off. But I’m loving the bottom pic.

    Also, what she’s saying and doing is absolutely important. Her visibility and the visibility of other women of color, in a wide range of colors, is important for all of us to see.

    • leskat says:

      I totally agree with you. Issa is so stunning and captivating but the yellow dress and makeup combo combined with the not looking at the camera pose is not a good picture of her. It does her a disservice.

      • Jensies says:

        And did they not give her mascara and/or eyeliner in that pic? Why do that to a woman.

  2. Snazzy says:

    I just had an argument about the light-skinned thing with my mom the other day. I was telling her I had run into one of her old friends, and the first thing she says to me is “Oh yes, I remember her. She’s so pretty, her skin is so light” (we’re of indo-pakistani origin). Seriously, why not just say she’s pretty? I just cut her off and said that I didn’t notice her skin tone, I’m just saying I ran into her and she says hi. Seriously WTF. I’m light skinned so it’s easy for me but my sister is much darker than I am and she’d always get comments about how unfortunate she is. I mean come on!

  3. Nicegirl says:


  4. censored says:

    luv her

  5. LooseSeal says:

    I’m here for all things Issa. I love her since her Awkward Black Girl days. Insecure is such an amazing show and I’m so glad she’s getting a platform to amplify her voice. And her fashion.

  6. Globeezie says:

    ISSA ALL DAY! Insecure is awesome and can’t wait for season 3. Love what she is doing for women of color. I’m Latina and just love her portrayal of beautiful black women of all shapes and sizes on the show!

    • Moneypenny424 says:

      Yes! She is amazing on and off the show. I love her and love what she does for representation.

  7. Gabriella says:

    Ive been watching her since her YouTube days and she is just an endless source of joy for me. I am so happy to watch her success, you know she put in the work, and goodness is she stunning.

    • Onemoretime says:

      I watched her Awkward Black Girl YouTube series as well and I am so proud of her & her talent! I like that she includes some of those cast members in Insecure. She is Black Girl Magic.

  8. Wisca says:

    She is my favorite celebrity. Brains & Beauty. I used to watch Awkward Adventures on YouTube with my children & we are all thrilled that we live at a moment when an Issa Diop can shine. Issa’s bold blackness (“I’m rooting for everybody black”) and excellence are part of the new America the Deplorables hate because it does not capitulate to white supremacy.

  9. DesertReal says:

    I couldn’t agree more with all of this.
    I love all of that she puts out, and I love every milestone she’s hit in her well-earned success.
    Also: Season 3 is right around the corner! Whoohoo!