Issa Rae, Crowdfunding Queen

Like many a creative in today’s entertainment industry, Issa Rae wears a lot of hats: producer, writer, actress, and most recently, Covergirl, just to name a few.

ISSARAE

You may know her best as the creator and star of the HBO series Insecure, a comedy-drama that explores the contemporary black female experience through the best friendship of its two protagonists, Molly and Issa.

What some may not know, however, is that Insecure is partially based on Rae’s critically acclaimed YouTube webseries The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which went viral upon its release in 2011 and inspired a following of dedicated fans. In fact, these fans propelled Awkward Black Girl to be among the first webseries of color to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign—the series was funded through a Kickstarter page that has pledged over $55,000 dollars to date, $44,000 of that total having been amassed in the page’s first year. As Rae indicated of the overwhelming success of the project in an interview with Televisual, “The support system was there. People just marketed it as a movement — on their own.”

Nicco Mele writes in The End of Big that other comedians—like Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari—have taken advantage of radical connectivity by directing their already-large audiences to their new projects online. Issa Rae, in contrast, is a perfect example of someone who has gained success by setting a different precedent, having built her audience online and using the affordances of radical connectivity to launch her career in more mainstream outlets (i.e., on HBO).

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In addition to all of Rae’s mainstream success, it’s heartening to know that she still rocks the crowdfunding world through her Patreon page, which is one of the most prominently featured pages on the site. In a quote on the platform’s homepage, she discusses how she uses Patreon as a membership program for her fans, which in turn helps her to fund her online production company, Issa Rae Productions.

With her production company, she endeavors to spotlight the efforts of other creators of color through projects like #ShortFilmSundays, a series on her YouTube page which features a new short film by an emerging creator of color each month. Additionally, she’s used her Patreon funding to help launch a new online TV network called The Peak, which also focuses on programming that authentically profiles the contemporary black experience.

During my presentation about Patreon last week, I talked about how content creators use this platform on a variety of levels, whether to financially supplement their creative work outside of their “day jobs”, or to help fund their creative work as their “day job” itself and beyond. Issa Rae is a creator who uses Patreon on the latter end of the scale, using it to fund not only her own digital platform, but also the platforms of other creators, effectively amplifying otherwise underrepresented voices in the industry. In any case, she has demonstrated her adeptness at directing her fan base toward enacting positive change through her crowdfunding projects, which, in my eyes, makes her the indisputable Crowdfunding Queen.

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