Issa Rae Goes from 'Awkward' to 'Insecure'

By Lisa Respers France


(CNN) -- Don't call Issa Rae an overnight success.

True, the actress is poised for a big break through with the Sunday premiere of her HBO comedy "Insecure." But Rae has been in the game for more than a minute.

She first found fame with her 2011 web series "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl." As with "Insecure," Rae served as both creator and star of the show which followed the life of "J," a young black woman who is as socially awkward as she is addicted to hardcore hip hop.

"Awkward Black Girl" racked up millions of views, snagged Hollywood's interest and led to Rae being dubbed "the black Tina Fey." But with Oprah Winfrey and mega-producer Shonda Rhimes among her fans, Rae has already made a name for herself.

In "Insecure," which she co-created with comedian Larry Wilmore, Rae stars as Issa Dee -- a 29-year-old woman in the midst of reevaluating her stagnant career and relationship. Helping with that is her best friend Molly, professionally successful but unlucky with love.

Rae recently talked to CNN about being on HBO's roster, why she doesn't want to be the spokeswoman for all young black women and Drake.

You know the main question everyone is going to have is how much of Issa Rae is in the character of Issa?

I say it's me, but if I didn't know what I wanted to do and if I made different decisions. I think the essence of me is definitely there, but I think I'm more empathetic than the character. But for the most part, what you see is what you get.

What makes you feel insecure?

I'm very socially anxious. I'm always wondering how people perceive me, wondering if they can tell I'm uncomfortable. Just the idea of failure, for sure, makes me insecure -- that I don't have a place and I'm not doing this right. I will say that definitely over time, I have become more confident. And of course, the typical women things of body insecurities and appearance. At this point, you get what you get.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I was struck by how people try to come across as if they are so together when really they are a mess. How do you deal with that?

I just don't. I don't feel the pressure because all the pressure is just in my own head, for me, and it's been like that since the sixth grade for me. I know my league and I know my lane. I'm not going to be out here trying to be the baddest reality girl. I'm not the model. I'm not going to be on the 100 most beautiful people of the world list. Those aren't my aspirations. I just want to tell good stories and work behind the scenes to make a change.

I feel like you are officially the new spokesperson for 20-something-year-old black women.