This past weekend, the BET Experience was bustling with Black girl magic and Black boy joy at the Los Angeles Convention Center at L.A. Live.
On Saturday, Charlamagne tha God (Black Privilege) hosted an all-day round chats for BET’s Genius Talks series. Issa Rae (Insecure) kicked off the series on Saturday morning.
Rae started off talking about Insecure’s writers’ room, of which Rae confirmed was mainly black with a sprinkle of white writers — an industry plot twist! She went on to say that while she is navigating the ins-and-outs of being a showrunner, she is very honored and privileged to be surrounded by a strong village that includes Ava DuVernay, Debbie Allen, and Mara Brock Akil to name a few. Additionally, she touched on the surrealness of realizing once she transitioned to “the other side”: from grinding for people to notice her all the way to people seeking her out.
She talked about being “insecure” in Hollywood and the desperation to be an “industry ho,” meaning taking every single opportunity regardless of whether it may be right for you. Her advice was to be strategic in what you say “yes” to. Further, for those aspiring showrunners and mainstream content creators, Rae stresses the importance of having content online, admitting she actually has an active eye to the online market. Rae noted that there is a lot of talent online, some of which she follows. “Don’t just send me a DM with a headshot!” she exclaimed.
So, what’s next for Issa Rae? She is interested in different mediums and producing. Her dream? Making a Stevie Wonder film.
Ava DuVernay (Queen Sugar) joined the BET fan crowd Saturday afternoon and Charlamagne dove right in, referencing what has now become her namesake: hiring an all-female-directing crew for her OWN drama, Queen Sugar. DuVernay’s list of female directors are very diverse as well. “My only requirement is that you’re not a man!” she noted to the chuckling audience.
She touched on the surreal moment of actually becoming friends with Oprah Winfrey who she maintains is a “regular” person who she can talk to “like regular black folks” making her forget she is “THE OPRAH” … until she sees her butler!
She also mused on her prison industrial complex documentary 13th which she states illustrates the fact that the past, present and future is linked. “What has happened, happened before and we’re starting from scratch.”
The chat ended with the larger-than-life pressures behind being the “first,” referencing her most recent history-changing endeavor: directing Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time. The project made her the first Black female director to helm a $100 million film. She is well aware of the pressures it places on her, referencing the similarities to Patty Jenkins with Wonder Woman, which served as kind of a “sigh of relief” for her and other women auteurs everywhere, which is a bittersweet realization.
Overall, BET’s Genius Talks was full of inspirational magic! Cheers to Issa Rae and Ava DuVernay for continuing to pave the way to new content creators of today and beyond!