A typical lunch at Patreon stars the daily New York Times Crossword. Every day at 12:30, you’ll find teammates crowding around the word puzzle with a “driver” (why yes, it is I) who reads the clues aloud and 8-10 guessers who chime in, mouths full, with the answers they’re proud to know.
Thursday’s crossword had a name we all knew well.
Taryn: “48 Across, 3 letters: Issa of Comedy…!”
A chorus of voices, all at once: “RAE!!!!”
If you’re unfamiliar with Issa Rae, shame on you. Just kidding, but really… you should get to know her.
With her NYT bestselling book, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, award-winning web-series by the same name, and as the creator, writer and star of HBO’s Insecure, Issa Rae is well on her way to becoming a household name.
In her short time in the limelight, Issa has already been Golden Globe and NAACP nominated, and chosen for Forbes’ “30 Under 30,” Glamour Magazine’s “35 Under 35” and Entertainment Weekly’s “Breaking Big” list.
As she continues to rise to the top, Issa keeps her eyes set on the same goal: to “share the love” and empower artists and creators of color, through her ColorCreative initiative that she funds on Patreon.
The Beginning of the Adventure
After graduating from Stanford as an African and African-American Studies major, Issa was creating web series on Youtube in between full-time jobs and freelance gigs. Through a mix of great content and perfect timing, one series went viral and caught the eye of Pharrell who later hosted her series on his YouTube channel.
“My impulsiveness and persistence,” she told us, are the qualities that helped her get to where she is today.
“I don’t like to take no for an answer and once I have an idea, I need to put it into action immediately. I’m a ‘do it now, figure out the rest later’ type of person. Sometimes it works, but a lot of times it doesn’t. But when it works, it really works.”
To say it worked here is an understatement. After her initial jumpstart, Issa continued to make and release content on her personal channel that had one large common thread; Almost all content was both created by and starring people of color.
Using Her Platform for Good
Fast forward a few years and the Patreon team screams in excitement to fill “RAE” into our crossword. Issa joined our Patreon family 2 years ago when she started her Patreon page. “I first launched my Patreon page as a way to fund the content that we were putting out on a weekly basis. We work with other content creators to distribute their shows, and YouTube adsense wasn’t enough, so Patreon really helped our audience to directly support our content and content creators.”
Since the initial launch, Issa and her team have shifted the use of her Patreon page to leverage her platform in a powerful way. “Now, we use Patreon as a membership program to not only fund content, but to hold local events and give supporters exclusive perks.” Every month, fans become paying patrons of Issa in exchange for special experiences, like free tickets to events, 20% off merchandise, care packages, and more.
Instead of using the revenue stream Issa makes on Patreon as another part of her income, she uses it to increase opportunities for diverse talent through ColorCreative. “Because of our growing audience, we’ve been able to share the love with other talented creators via ColorCreative — an initiative that produces and distributes great content from amazing creators of color,” Issa shared.
While many artists use Patreon as their main source of income, Issa found a way to use her expanding platform to empower other artists for underrepresented groups.
At the crux of all this good, you’ll find that Issa’s fans are the energetic lifeline that roll with her from one project to the next. “They’ve spread the word about my work, given their coins, their words of encouragement, and their loyalty,” she told us.
They also act as a sounding board when she’s trying something new. “They’re very vocal about when they like something, and they’re also not shy about telling me when they don’t like something. It’s a very close relationship.”
“They’re the reason I have a creative career.”
Passion First, Always
Issa’s career has been short in time but long in impact — and it’ll only get longer — because she has one simple rule for herself; passion first.
“I always think about how miserable I was at the job that I had right before my web series took off,” Issa told us. “I think about how much I’ve learned since then and how far I’ve come, and remind myself that I never want to go back to doing something I’m not passionate about again.”
Lucky for her, it looks like she won’t have to. Issa has surrounded herself with people and projects that will continue to catapult her into fulfilling work that, in many opinions, will change the world. And no one is better suited to do it than Issa Rae.
“I’m very lucky to be doing something I love to do, no matter how hard it gets.”