“When I am left to my own devices, I am about as fashionable as Kanye is Black - only when its convent. You guys, that joke was my choice, just like slavery,”
Who is the world uses a black belt accessory to hit the red carpet with all eyes on her to make a powerful bold cultural statement? My guess is you would most likely think of a renowned artist or a rapper/singer/musician first before you would think of a Black woman comedian and actress. But Issa Rae has always understood her kinetic wow factor when it comes to the unapologetic celebration of her Blackness. A modern-day Renaissance woman in her own right within the industries of Black TV, Film, and Comedy but she is also making a whole lot of ‘first-ever’ historic moments to add to her beautiful funny persona and screen-writing brilliance. Steven Kolb, President and CEO of the CFDA described her artistic voice as, “...the leading new generation of performers who use their voice and humor to discuss social topics in a way that is relatable and poignant.” in their press release for the annual Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Awards last week. The CFDA began in 1981 to celebrate the work of menswear and womenswear designers nationwide but the Insecure actress and comedienne made history by being the first Black entertainer to host the fashion awards in its 37-year history, as well as the first woman to host in nine years.
To officially commence the historic moment Issa stepped on to the red carpet like a seasoned star in her signature chic fashion boldness wearing a stunning Swarovski-encrusted a one-shouldered jumpsuit gown designed by Black designer Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss. And just when you thought Issa couldn’t be bolder in her cultural pride, her most memorable statement of the night was her jaw-dropping black belt accessory, which cinched her waist in an embroidered white stitching that read "Every N**** Is A Star." It was that unspoken clever cultural nod that cemented the historic fashion moment like no other on the red carpet appearance before. The iconic raw, statement "Every N**** Is A Star. " originates from Jamaican artist Boris Gardiner's 1973 song and film of the same name. The 1973 song was also re-featured on the soundtrack for Moonlight, the Best Picture winner at the 2017 Oscars and you probably know the phrase most recently from a sample on Kendrick Lamar's 2015 track, "Wesley's Theory."
"If you don't get it, it's not for you. If you don't get it, you weren't supposed to. It's not meant to be political. It's meant to be uplifting."
Designer, Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter designer, Kerby Jean-Raymond revealed that the belt accessory was actually added at the last minute and was inspired by the cultural phenomena that depicts Black people as just tragic figures. "We never talk about who they love, people with their children and their love for their families. It's always a tragic figure or as firsts—first black man to do this, first black person to do this—but what about just a bus driver?" he says. "We don't have to be Jay-Z, we don't have to be Kerby Jean-Raymond, we don't have to be Issa Rae, we can just be who we are and just exist and we're still superstars in our own rights, no matter what we do." Simply put, Kerby and Issa wanted to champion the phrase and flip the controversial yet poignant phrase on its head and illustrate a new language of beauty. As for the uncomfortableness of the use of the word N**** on the belt, Jean-Raymond has this to say, "If you don't get it, it's not for you. If you don't get it, you weren't supposed to. It's not meant to be political. It's meant to be uplifting." There is a necessary grandiose creativity of wordplay and fashion expression needed within the fashion and entertainments industries because of the under-recognized community of American Black designers, despite the direct global and historical influences of the culture for centuries. Ironically, none of the Black designers who were nominated for a 2018 CFDA Award won on that night, but it is for that very reason of underrepresentation that Issa & Kerby would team up for such a powerful and political visual fashion statment, "it’s important to know that being there was already a huge achievement," says Jean Raymond in his elle.com interview.
Issa made her hosting debut at the Brooklyn Museum with a no holes barred opening monologue addressing the political climate and controversial comments of Kanye West with Mrs. West sitting right in the front row. Representation was Issa's focal point for the fashionable evening, which is why Rae teamed up with her stylist, Jason Rembert, chose five different looks for the night, all designed by black designers as well as Black accessory designers too.
“When I am left to my own devices, I am about s fashionable as Kanye is Black - only when its convent. You guys, that joke was my choice, just like slavery,”
The evening brought A-list celebs that included, Oprah Winfrey, "Black-ish" star Tracee Ellis Ross, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, singer Ciara, model-actress, Comedian & Host Trevor Noah, and more. The Fashion Icon Award went to model-actress Naomi Campbell, and Donatella Versace received the International Award.
Being the face of Insecure has led our beloved Issa to many new opportunities in her career because of her ability to authentically literalize the Black experience and all of its cultural nuances without an explanation even as the modern tv-landscape becomes more inclusive. Coined as the "vanguard of young creators in television" by GQ magazine in their June 2018 edition, it is more than obvious why her charismatic and bold funny has led her to other industry stages that she would have never imagined. Her unapologetic and unwavering comedy content that refuses to bend to the traditional network's expectations is why her career is crossing pollinating amongst so many other creative entertianment spaces. We can only imagine what next for this "It Girl" who made the words "Awkward" and "Insecure" seem cool and hella relatable and championing the complexity of the Black womanhood experience.