Issa Rae photographed by Christopher Dibble
"Why couldn't Seinfeld have black people? Did they think black people wouldn't find it funny?" This was the question the producer/director/writer Issa Rae asked herself when creating her wildly popular Web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. "The humor I wanted to exhibit was not explored in comedies of color, and that bothered me," says Rae, who's been acting since childhood and got her start making a Web series while a student at Stanford. It turns out she was right. Her endearingly fumbling title character, "J," who navigates awkward situations like offensive coworkers and regrettable one-night stands, has resonated with more than a million viewers, including Pharrell Williams, who added the show to the roster of his i am OTHER YouTube channel. (According to Rae, Williams says he has an awkward streak of his own.) Now after two seasons, Rae is turning Awkward Black Girl into a movie ("we're trying to figure out if we want to go the studio or the independent route") and creating a TV show with Hollywood bigwig Shonda Rhimes (the creator of Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice) called I Hate L.A. Dudes, inspired, in part, by Rae and her friends' frustrations with dating the men in their city.