Her father is Dr. Abdoulaye Diop, a pediatrician and neonatologist from Senegal, while her mother Delyna Diop, is an African-American teacher from Louisiana. Her parents met while they were in school in France. Issa and her family moved around from Los Angeles to Dakar and later wound up in Potomac, Maryland. She grew up experiencing many “non-black” things, including being part of a swim team, playing street hockey, and attending Passovers with her Jewish best friends.
When Rae’s family moved to the affluent View Park-Windsor Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles when she was in the sixth grade, she attended a predominantly black middle school, where she faced difficulties in fitting in due to being berated for “acting white.” She would go on to attend King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, where she first began acting. It was also during this time that her parents divorced.
Issa attended Stanford University, graduating with a major in African and African-American Studies. Her time at Stanford proved to be quite fruitful as she made music videos, directed plays, and created a mock reality series called Dorm Diaries. It was also during this time where she met Tracy Oliver, who helped produce her hit YouTube series, Awkward Black Girl.
Upon graduating from Stanford, Issa and Tracy moved to New York, where they received a theater fellowship at The Public Theater and began taking lessons at The New York Film Academy. However, Issa abandoned school when Awkward Black Girl began to take off in 2011.
The series would go on to win a Shorty award for Best Web Show in 2013. Later that year she began work on her first TV series with Larry Wilmore for HBO, which would be the series Insecure. Issa would later land her first film role two years later as Jane Johnson in the drama A Bitter Lime (2015).
Rae would also go on to appear in music videos for Jay-Z’s “Moonlight” and Drake's “Nice for What” in 2017 and 2018 respectively. She landed a prominent role in the film adaptation of the young adult novel The Hate U Give as April Ofrah in 2018. Most recently she was seen as April Williams in the body swap comedy film Little (2019), alongside Regina Hall and Marsai Martin.
This year she can be seen in the romance drama The Photograph starring alongside LaKeith Stanfield and Chelsea Peretti, and in the comedy flick The Lovebirds, in which she stars with Kumail Nanjiani and Anna Camp.
The Lovebirds (2020)
The Photograph (2020)
The Hate U Give (2018)
A Bitter Lime (2015)