January 12, 1985
Los Angeles, California, United States
Born in Los Angeles in 1985, Jo-Issa Rae Diop lived in Dakar, Senegal for a short time, but was raised in Maryland until sixth grade when her family moved to Los Angeles. Diop attended Stanford, graduating in 2007 with a major in African and African-American Studies. While in college, she was active in the arts, making music videos and creating a mock reality series called "Dorm Diaries." In 2008, a friend began calling her Issa Rae, and Diop decided that she would use the name for her creative endeavors. After graduation she received a theater fellowship at The Public Theater in New York and began taking film classes. An article bemoaning the lack of African-American geeks portrayed in media led Rae to create "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl" (YouTube, 2011-2013). Rae and her friend Tracy Oliver both produced and acted in the first season, which debuted on YouTube in 2011. The overwhelmingly positive response led the two to launch a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $50,000 to fund more episodes of the show. Rae partnered with Pharrell Williams and premiered the second season of the show on his YouTube channel, iamOther. The show won the Shorty Award for Best Web Show in 2012 and ended its run in February of 2013. In 2015, Rae published a memoir titled "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl," and in 2016, she starred in and produced the critically acclaimed series "Insecure" (HBO, 2016-). Between seasons of the series, Rae appeared in the acclaimed drama "The Hate U Give" (2018).