From Awkward to All That and a Bag of Potato Chips: Issa Rae on Living the Dream

Today is the first Thursday in November. A lot of people are excited, some high off of the re-election of President Barack Obama, others just glad that the weekend is one more day away. But some are geared up for another reason all together: today marks another installment of season 2 of “The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl,” an internet comedy created and starring Issa Rae. Before the last episode dropped the ABG Facebook wall read like a drug addiction movie script – “grr..where’s the new episode? I feel like a crack head!”, “bitches be trippin’, where’s the new episode?! ;D” – and today’s release will likely be no different.  ABG’s fans have propelled the show to cult status.  Because of their support Rae was able to raise over $50,000 on Kickstarter to finance the show, and has drawn the attention of high profile supporters. They demand their ABG fix. They crave it.


I clock her when she comes in. It’s Dream Day at Howard University and the room is full of people who, in some way or another, found a way to realize their dreams. She’s hard to miss in an electric blue blazer and silver earrings. Most of the other female panelists gain their height from killer heels, but Rae opts for shoes that are a bit less dramatic, as she is already one of the taller people in the room. The Young Dreamers Movement organized the event, with the intention of motivating students towards academic excellence by having them hear from speakers who have forged their own success. Issa Rae, then, is the perfect panelist.

Howard carefully arranged all manners of fancy finger foods (grilled Portobello mushrooms and peppers, crabcakes, fruits and cheeses) in preparation for the event. In every corner of the room young black creative types are listening and laughing and chatting, the atmosphere electric with – inspiration. Issa Rae is eating when I pounce on her.

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What *Wouldn’t* Sanaa Lathan Do?

In my favorite online TV show, the main character is distressed the prospect of having to get it poppin’ with her new beau. She poses an essential question, which has become a catchphrase throughout my Twitter and Facebook timelines:

What would 90’s Nia Long do?

Nia Long has always been a cultural touchstone: sweet (as Brandi in Boyz in the Hood), beautiful (as Beulah in Fresh Prince of Bel Air), saucy (Jordan in the Best Man), or ‘deep’ (as Nina in Love Jones). Long has solidified herself as the woman the guys love and the girls want to be like. She can really do no wrong. This made me think, who is the one actress whose characters I wouldn’t want to model my life after?

Sanaa Lathan.

What if, instead of asking what 90s Nia Long would do, we asked, what wouldn’t Sanaa Lathan do?

Sanaa Lathan is cute in a girl-next-door kind of way, not quite tall, not quite short, medium tone, medium hair, medium build. And in almost all of her roles she’s played the nice, bland girlfriend that goes above and beyond for someone that doesn’t deserve her time or attention.

And it makes my blood boil.

While 90s Nia Long spunky and taking pictures and about her business, Sanaa Lathan is leaving her basketball career behind because she misses her old boo.

While 90s Nia Long is cussing out Debo and falling for Craig, Sanaa Lathan is an engaged dude’s second string.

While 90s Nia Long is getting love poems dedicated to the blues in her left thigh, Sanaa Lathan is playing 1-on-1 for the love of a man who can’t be bothered.

90s Nia Long is the one luring Taye Diggs to f*ck, and Sanaa is the one taking him back when he f*cks up.

For some reason, it feels like Sanaa’s characters don’t ever get to “Happily Ever After.” Maybe the reason she infuriates me so much is because it doesn’t have to be that way. I want to yell, ‘walk away! you don’t have to deal with that bullshit!’ at the screen. In most of her movies (Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar, The Best Man, Something New) Sanaa is frustrating because she could do so much better. Maybe I recognize that many women, myself included, have been more Sanaa than Nia in our day-to-day lives, not recognizing our true power and accepting less than what we truly deserve. Is 90s Nia Long the ideal, and Sanaa Lathan the reality we deal with? Yikes.


INFOGRAPHIC: Summer Reading List Based On Your Favorite TV Shows

It’s summer time, and you need a choose a book to read on the side of the pool/at the beach/at your family reunion. Don’t worry, I created a mind map of books based on TV shows for you. This infographic is based on personal reading, suggestions from others, Twitter convos, and a bit of magical thinking.

For those of you who don’t dig infographics, here’s a linked list of all the books below. Let me know what you think!

Colbert Report

Bossy Pants (Tina Fey), 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in theMouth (And Other Useful Guides) (Matthew Inman), Stuff White People Like (Christian Lander), PostSecret: Extraordinary Secrets from Ordinary Lives (Frank Warren), Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World (Davy Rothbart)

Modern Family

The Color of Water (James McBride), My Korean Deli (Ben Ryder Howe), Virgin Suicides (Jeffrey Eugenides), OnBeauty (Zadie Smith), The Taste of Salt (Martha Southgate)

Downton Abbey

Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides), Salvage The Bones (Jesmyn Ward), Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamada Ngozi Adichie), Wench: A Novel (Dolen Perkins-Valdez)

Mary, Mary

Church Folk (Michele Andrea Bowen), The Shack (William Young), The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis), The Purpose Driven Life (Rick Warren), Living Buddha, Living Christ (Thich Naht Hanh)

Oprah Winfrey Life Class

The Power of Habit (Charles Duhigg), 5 Love Languages (Gary Chapman), Beneaththe Lion’s Gaze (Maaza Mengiste), State of Wonder (Ann Patchett), The Artist’sWay (Julia Cameron), Back of the Napkin (Dan Roam)


The Long Fall (Walter Mosley), Leaving Atlanta (Tayari Jones), Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Jeff Lindsay), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson), Homicide: AYear on the Killing Streets (David Simon)

Walking Dead

Wild Seed (Octavia Butler), Dhalgren (Samuel Delaney), Pym (Mat Johnson), The Watchmen (Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons), Shades of Memnon (Brother O), A Song of Ice & Fire :Game of Thrones series (George Martin)

Mad Men

Bonfire of the Vanities (Tom Wolfe), Prep (Curtis Sittenfield), Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe), 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene), Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun (Reginald Lewis, Blair Walker)

Awkward Black Girl

How To Be Black (Baratunde Thurston), The Broke Diaries (Angela Nissel), Nappily Ever After (Trisha Thomas), BeforeYou Suffocate Your Own Fool Self (Danielle Evans), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz), The Return of Simple (Langston Hughes)

Love + Hip Hop

Coldest Winter Ever (Sister Souljah), Drama is Her MiddleName (Wendy Williams, Karen Hunter), Diamond Life (Aliya S. King), Bling (Erica Kennedy), The Vixen Manual: How to Find, Seduce and Keep the Man You Want (Karrine Steffans)

Melissa Harris-Perry

Drift (Rachel Maddow), Emperor of Ocean Park (Stephen Carter), Black Cool (Rebecca Walker), MalcolmX: A Life of Reinvention (Manning Marable), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot),The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander)

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Giovanni’s Room (James Baldwin), Gotham Diaries (Tonya Lewis Lee, Crystal McCrary Anthony), OutlawMarriages (Rodger Streitmatter), The Commitment (Dan Savage), Seriously I’m Kidding (Ellen DeGeneres), Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Jeanette Winterson)