Issa Raye and the Fabulous third season of Insecure
In my mind, Issa Raye is one of my best friends — and you can’t tell me otherwise. Two weeks ago, Insecure season three wrapped up, and for the first time since watching season one back in 2016, I’m anxious for the next season. For starters, this last season is the one I resonated with the most, as it was like a slow-cooker bowl of gumbo that after hours of simmering, it came out perfect. At first taste, it was good, but not quite ready. An hour or so later, the flavors were blending together lovely, and by the time it was ready, I wanted more.
So, why do I love Issa? When I first heard about her was when she was doing a YouTube series called Awkward Black Girl six years ago when YouTube series were unsponsored concepts on users dedicated pages, putting people on the map. Reading the comments today, loyal fans still follow Issa’s work with many even commenting that they are rewatching Awkward Black Girl now. However, my investment is a little different. I didn’t watch the YouTube series because at the time I was a stereotypical Black hipster who was anti-everything that was “trendy” in the community. I actually met Issa in college at a mutual friend’s birthday party, and I didn’t know who she was; I just thought she was a nice Black girl with natural hair (she was rocking a short fro). Even after my friend gave me some brief background, it still didn’t click.
It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to watch her perform some of her comedy rap songs, like she does in her bathroom mirror on Insecure, that I became a fan. Her group, The Doublemints, performed a type of music she coined as “sophistiratchet” that originally premiered on the Awkward Black Girl series with the fictional song, “Booty Shorts.” When I saw her perform with the group at Fais Do Do, a club cafe in the historic West Adams district of Los Angeles, I was in tears laughing to the quirky yet relatable lyrics that almost made fun of the early 2010s “ratchet” music era. I was surrounded by her closet friends that made up her original fan base, and I felt the love for her talent radiate throughout the room. A year later, I saw the group perform at Brokechella, now the Broke LA Fest, and I was just as hyped as the first time I saw her — she was just as funny and fun to watch.
So, when Insecure season one premiered in 2016, I knew who Issa was, and I was ready to see my “bestie’s” show off her acting chops and naturally funny personality. When I saw her rapping on the show in the mirror, I felt nostalgic and like I had my own personal Awkward Black Girl experience. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t say season one exceeded my expectations (I’ll explain…). Each 30-minute episode gave me something to laugh about and pieces to resonate with because the show is filmed in Los Angeles and specifically highlights places that are familiar to the African-American community. As a born and bred “LA girl,” I felt especially excited when I saw glimpses of Leimert Park and Baldwin Hills featured throughout the show. The storyline itself, Lawrence and Issa’s love, as well as Molly’s tumultuous love life, gave me enough to hold on to, but not enough to ignite anticipation for season two. It’s not that season one wasn’t good. I loved Issa’s character because I, like many Black women watching the show, resonated with her struggles at work (code-switching to secret White meetings), dating “Hotep” men, and her friendships with her best friends. However, I didn’t leave the season feeling ready for the next; I just felt it was a “good show” with moments that I could relate to.
By season two, the writing was better as each character felt more developed, and each episode gave us a fully fleshed out story that also created anticipation for the next episode. Watching the demise of Issa’s relationship with Lawrence, to her dating Daniel and going through her “hoe phase,” to Molly dealing with unequal pay at work and sleeping with her married friend Dro, and Lawrence discovering himself in his work and dating post Issa’s infidelity, I felt the show gave me a lot to unpack and chew on as a viewer. I remember the last episode of season two because I actually cried — I had a moment to mourn Lawrence and Issa’s relationship, while also looking forward to what would come next for all of the characters.
By season three, I was ready with high expectations, and they were met. While I won’t go through a whole season recap, I will say that the season did a great job in surprising us with Lawrence’s return, delving deeper into Molly’s self-worth issues, tapping into Issa’s creativity and watching her “find herself” right before her 30th birthday, to even exploring her friendship dynamics and expanding this idea of “Black love.” Even the show within the show, Key’vn, brought in multiple Black TV sitcom actors from the`90s — like Kim Field from Living Single showed a new level for Insecure. How genius was it to create a show within a show that tackled relevant topics like the #MeToo Movement and Black Lives Matter? This season showed growth, not just for the characters, but for the show itself: from the production, to the writing, to the story development.
Insecure does something that many shows right now aren’t doing. It’s for the culture, and its rawness helps its audience connect — no other show right now is premiering new artists, showing depths of the LA Black community, addressing gentrification, showing local parties like Kiss-n-Grind, or introducing major topics: like “ghosting,” “pursuing your dreams,” or “getting back with your ex” that are cross-culturally relevant. It’s our modern-day A Different World that is full of Black culture without alienating other groups. It’s almost a “welcome” to our truth, and is done in a relatable way with the same provocative energy of any popular HBO show.
I look forward to season four, to see what angles the writers take, and as an almost 30-something female myself, to see where Issa’s life will take her (because I also quit my job to pursue my dreams, therefore season three was very timely).
While I wait for the new season, I need to spend time with the bestie. So, excuse me while I go and watch Awkward Black Girl for the first time.