Issa Rae doesn’t acknowledge failure. The television show creator, producer and star of HBO’s hit comedy series, Insecure, thinks of it as something you deal with in high school. Like getting an F on a test
This is how she elaborated on her relationship with failure: “For me, I hate hearing no and I just try to find a way to turn them into yes-es.
“No one likes no-s, especially when you feel like you’re meant to do something. (Like) this is all that I want to do. So to hear: No, you can’t do it For me, I just didn’t believe it.”
This is great insight into how the woman - who seems like she shot to superstardom relatively quickly (even though hearing her speak proves otherwise) - works.
However, it does get a little tiring when you’ve been waiting for a few hours, only to hear the same sentiment repeated.
There was plenty of excitement around Issa Rae coming to South Africa to attend the In Good Company Experience.
It was billed as an event with a few panel discussions on technology as well as the arts, complemented by a masterclass by actresses Enhle Mbali and Issa Rae.
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However, by the time I had left the event - which had started late - I had heard three thought-provoking “keynote addresses”.
There was a brilliant one that shone the spotlight on Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley, Brownie Wise and Nunu Ntshingila.
There was another one that demystified the myths of perfection - especially when one is famous and married to a famous man.
There was the third one that attempted to use the tools of the marketing world to show women how not to be like men in order to be more successful.
All of those were primers for what I believed would be a masterclass on being an innovator - presented by Issa Rae.
Instead, though, there was a repeat of what had happened earlier at the press conference.
Nomzamo Mbatha did a stellar job hosting the event - complete with banter about her misbehaving dress.
She created and sustained the sisterhood vibe that I believed the event aimed to project - but it was surprising to see her reprise her role as interviewerwhen Rae finally stepped onto the stage that night.
She asked the same questions that she had asked at the press conference and readily admitted that the follow-up stemmed from something that Rae had already said.
So, naturally, Rae’s answers didn’t stray far from what she’d already said that afternoon.
I understand that this was done for the benefit of the people who weren’t present that afternoon, but it felt like a failure to not let Rae speak for herself - to not ask her to prepare something especially for that night.
I would’ve liked to hear her speak about her teenage years, how living in a home with African parents informed what kind of stories she’d love to tell the world.
I would have loved to have heard her break down her writing process, how she navigates being young, black and a woman in charge of a major production.
Later, Rae and Mbatha were joined by the likes of Greg Maloka and Thandiswa Mazwai for a panel discussion.
There, Rae did speak about supporting African characters on screen.
However, it still felt like an interview and not a masterclass.
The sheer brilliance of Nadia Mohamed, the mixture of strength and vulnerabilty of Enhle Mbali and the frankness of Mzamo Masito were very tough acts to follow.