Why the screening of 'Barbie' left Issa Rae 'speechless'

Why the screening of ‘Barbie’ left Issa Rae ‘speechless’

Logo text

Issa Rae has a new gig. The mogul, who leads a production company with film, television and media projects, a management company, a record label, a coffee company and more, has partnered with retail delivery platform Shipt for a new campaign . Debuting this week, the partnership, which marks Shipt’s largest advertising investment, sees Rae front and center as she uses Shipt “as a reliable resource for any situation” (including her famous yacht parties). To publicize the campaign launch, Rae spoke with The Hollywood Reporter on its summer essentials Shipt, the success of Spider-Man: Through the Spider-Verse and if she saw a full cut of Greta Gerwig Barbie.

Related stories

Issa Rae appears in a still from her new campaign for Shipt in June 2023.

Issa Rae appears in a still from her new campaign for Shipt in June 2023.

Embry Rucker

First of all, congratulations Spider-Verse. How do you feel now that the film is out in the world?

A thousand thanks. I’m so glad he’s out in the world and people seem to love him as much as I do. I was so happy to see that the sequel was everything I wanted it to be and more. As I’m sure you already know, we don’t get full scripts, so I only knew the parts that I had recorded. To be able to see it all at once – I only got to see it a couple of days before everyone else – I was blown away by how good it was and what a great job the filmmakers have done in taking this world to another level. I was also very disheartened to see that my character (Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman) was on the wrong side of things. It was a shock to me. Sure, I would have still said yes (to do that) but I was mad at her.

I know you are really thoughtful about who to collaborate with, so how did this Shipt campaign come about and why did you say yes?

I actually use the app. It’s been such a time saver for me, as I often fail to fully plan my days and there are times when I don’t have time to go to the store by myself. With this particular collaboration, I got to highlight my real life using my friends. It felt authentic the way I operate completely. It was just a seamless collaboration. I don’t know if I can speak to the extra portion of community service they are doing for an HBCU, but there is such a great intention behind this company that made it such an easy decision for me to join.

When you say yes, how collaborative is the process?

It’s a complete collaboration. They offer their concept and what they’re thinking and give me a chance to make sure it’s right for me, and then I was able to tweak things in such a way that it made more sense to me. I like to get my friends who would actually be here on a girls night out and attend my “yacht shit” parties that I throw. I was also able to suggest a director (Lawrence Lamont) who I knew would do a great job as he’s really phenomenal at conveying stories in a short amount of time given his background in music videos. It’s a pure collaboration that has resulted in such a fun shot because I’m working with a group of people I love and respect.

Speaking of using Shipt, what’s on your list of summer essentials?

I love to smell good during the summer, it’s essential when you’re out and about and it’s hot. I have to make sure I don’t offend anyone. (He laughs.) Whether it’s Sephora perfume or other products. I also love ice cream and, you know, no summer is complete without the best ice cream sandwiches. Also, I’m a great reporter and get most of my journal entries in the summer when I have time to sit down on the weekends, collect my thoughts, and do some planning for the second half of the year. Then, you’ll find a Moleskin journal on my Shipt List along with other beach-friendly items.

A big summer awaits you ahead with the release of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. Have you seen the full movie yet?

Yes, I saw it at home (by Margot Robbie and Tom Ackerley) in their little theater. She left me a little speechless. It’s so well done and true to the script, that I thought it was brilliant. It was amazing to see what Greta was able to accomplish visually, what an incredible performer Margot is and to relive how the dance numbers unfolded, which I didn’t get to see up close. It was just a really, really satisfying watch and so much fun. I was literally laughing out loud alone in a dark room.

As someone who runs their own empire and creates their own projects, what is it like to work on a film like Barbie when are you a paid actor? Do you like being told what to do and where to go? Or would you rather be a creative collaborator and run the show?

I love introducing myself and being told what to do. (He laughs.) I’m almost a little irritated when people ask me, “What would you do here?” I’m like, “No, that’s your shit. I have, so tell me what you want me to do and I will happily do it. But, of course, with someone like Greta, she’s so respectful of not only my opinion, but everyone else’s as well. You work with people whose opinions you value and want to make sure you listen to everyone. She is so good at channeling those thoughts through her vision of her and intensifying and elevating them. She does it so well. There were definitely parts of the costume and the way she (President Barbie) acts that she was deferential to me, and I’ve seen her be that way with Kingsley Ben-Adir. Everyone had versions of what they wanted their Barbie or Ken to look like, and I’ve seen her take those ideas and make them her own in the best way possible.

I love what you’ve done with your coffee business. The spaces are so impressive and it seems that the reception has been exceptional. How’s that deal going with you?

A thousand thanks. She’s doing really, really well. Now we have a coffee truck, which visited the writers’ strike picket line the other day to hand out free coffee and tea. We are still looking to expand. We have a position arriving at the airport very soon. It’s just been a great hub to meet other creators. Some of my favorite people visit the shop and this is a dream come true. I just saw that Tina Knowles hosted an event there at bass and sent me pictures. It was so stupid. It’s a great neighborhood center for anyone who wants to go there and eat and drink good food.

Issa Rae appears in a still from her new campaign for Shipt in June 2023.

Issa Rae appears in a still from her new campaign for Shipt in June 2023.

Embry Rucker

A version of this story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to register now.