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September 13, 2016 2:06 PM EDT

Issa Rae, the creator and star of HBO’s new series Insecure, opened up to Glamour magazine about identity.

Rae, who first gained recognition for her web series Awkward Black Girl, told the magazine that she was bullied growing up because she didn’t fit into her classmates’ racial stereotypes. As one of the only black students at a school in Maryland, classmates made fun of her because her father was from Africa. When she moved to a predominantly black school in Los Angeles, classmates goaded her for being a vegetarian, competing on the swim team and not getting her hair done.

“My classmates called me ‘white girl’… My classmates liked to tell me what black people don’t do,” she told Glamour. “I felt ostracized, as if I didn’t belong. I’m darker than most people here, I thought, but I’m not black?”

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She initially tried to conform to her classmates’ expectations, rather than just doing what she loved. Ultimately, she realized she’d be a lot happier if she simply embraced herself.

“It took me a while to realize that the way I am is black. That being black is not just one thing,” she said. “That no one could define my blackness, that I could make my own definitions of blackness. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that happened, but I do know that realizing I don’t need to be limited instilled in me a new confidence.”

“I’m a proud black woman who likes swimming, owns an electric car, and f-cking loves Downton Abbey. That’s me,” she continued. “And just by being me, I’m being black.”


Write to Samantha Cooney at

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