One more thing we love about Issa Rae: How "Insecure" showcases black artists

Now that the comedic actress has an HBO hit, she's using her platform to raise the profiles of other artists

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published August 20, 2017 5:30PM (EDT)

Insecure (HBO)
Insecure (HBO)

The second season of Issa Rae’s groundbreaking HBO comedy "Insecure" is amazing for a number of reasons. The characters are complex and funny, the story lines are hilarious, and Rae is brilliant at showing so many sides of blackness, something that so many shows fail to do. Rae also does something else through her show that is much needed in the art world: she's launching careers and providing platforms for other artists.

I remember when I first started out as an artist, running around as a writer and a photographer. Writing was the passion but photography paid the bills. I’d rip through the city shooting anything and everything, and eventually the word got out that I was cheap and pretty decent, so I started booking steady hood gigs: weddings, rap album photo shoots and parties, mostly. I even shot a funeral once.

As my reputation grew, I started getting bigger gigs. One was for a popular writer. I shot all of his events — I even did some for free, just for the opportunity to meet people in the publishing world. In between gigs I’d share my writing ambitions with him and he’d give some good insights, but he never offered any connections, not even for the opportunities he didn’t want. The same thing happened with my photos — he’d post my images, but would never credit me as the photographer.

Sometimes I’d say to him, “Yo, give me credit on my pics. I’m trying to get some money!”

And he’d say, “My apologies, bro, I got you!” before posting my name — without my social media handle. I quickly realized that he had no interest in promoting anyone other than himself.

I didn’t let his actions make me bitter. Instead, I told myself that if I ever made it, I’d use my platform to help promote other artists. I’ve been doing that from the moment I became fortunate enough to travel to promote my work, and watching Issa do it on Insecure has given me more hope.

We are barely halfway through the season and I've already noticed Rae using her HBO platform to plug the amazing artwork of Derrick Adams by showcasing his work in a Los Angeles gallery. The show has used music from Baltimore’s talented hip hop musician TT The Artist, and showcased the cover of Angela Flournoy’s award-winning book "The Turner House." All of these people are gifted and experiencing success; however, that push from "Insecure" will definitely help increase their profiles and grow their audiences, which could ultimately take their careers to the next level.

I hope more influential artists with large platforms follow her lead. Rae is proving that we all can win, especially if we help each other.

By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a writer on the HBO limited series "We Own This City" and a professor at the University of Baltimore. Watkins is the author of the award-winning, New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America”, "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope" as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new books, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," and "The Wire: A Complete Visual History" are out now.

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Angela Fluournoy Art Books Derrick Adams Hbo Hip Hop Insecure Issa Rae Tv