Issa Rae’s unapologetic acceptance speech at the 2019 Women in Film Gala is a rallying call to anyone who’s struggling to banish feelings of self-doubt.
In a world that frequently tells women to silence their voices, repress their opinions and take up less space, it can feel overwhelmingly hard to celebrate our achievements. Even though we know that being more upfront about our everyday wins will benefit our lives exponentially, actually mustering the confidence to speak up can feel like an eternal work-in-progress.
One person who understands this double bind is Issa Rae, who delivered a masterclass in self-confidence when she stepped on stage to accept the inaugural award for Emerging Entrepreneur at the annual Women in Film Gala.
Anyone who’s familiar with the co-creator and star of hit comedy Insecure will know that she’s unfailingly hilarious and always hits the mark with her razor-sharp humour. But mix that with an unapologetic celebration of her own talent, and it’s clear why the audience got to their feet.
“As women, we tend to downplay ourselves, to dim our light, and we’re kind of conditioned, socially, to be humble….I grew up being a huge hip-hop fan, and none of my favourite artists are humble,” she began. “They don’t even know what that means. So, in writing my speech, I decided to embrace this moment, in honour of them.”
“Emerging Entrepreneur Award…duh, bitches,” she joked, as the audience applauded. “I’m the first, so you future hoes need to bow down, unless you’re ready to catch my fade, with your weak asses. I’m closing all doors behind me, so if you didn’t make it in, oops, your bad. Figure it out.”
“Entrepreneur means I did that shit by myself. To everybody who claims to have helped me get here: OK, and?” she laughed. “In conclusion, entrepreneur ‘til I die, I deserve this, bye.”
Can we get an “Amen” up in here?
If her refusal to stay ‘humble’ wasn’t enough to get you shouting “Amen”, Rae wove in a couple of well-timed jibes, such as “UTA, worry about that writers’ strike instead of about me” and “HBO, keep running me my money, please and thank you,” which we’re definitely going to be channelling next time we ask for a pay rise.
Rae’s speech is striking not only for its bold self-confidence, however. The absence of similar acceptance speeches coming out of Hollywood emphasises the rarity of such an expression of confidence, and serves as a stark reminder that even the most high profile women struggle to shout about their achievements.
So, next time you’re struggling to quell the voices of doubt in your head, replay this acceptance speech, type it in your notes, and set it to your home screen pronto.