What We Can We Learn From Issa Rae and Chelsea Handler

Two dynamos sat down to share the secrets of their success

Throughout her two-decade career in comedy, Chelsea Handler has had to put up with a lot of bullshit. People have a hard time with women who are loudly and unapologetically themselves—and sadly, some of those people are women. Sadder still, some are women who are uniquely able to help give other women a boost. Handler says she’s had some “disenchanting” encounters with women in positions of power in the entertainment industry, but she walked away from them with fresh resolve: “I’ll never, ever treat a woman like that.”

On Wednesday night, a predominantly but not exclusively female audience of young professionals crammed into a cozy room on the eighth floor of the Talmadge building in Koreatown for a LinkedIn-hosted panel discussion on success with Handler and actress-comedian-writer and South L.A. native Issa Rae. They’re both famous precisely because they’re loudly and unapologetically themselves. And they spent the evening paying it forward by encouraging other women to do the same. “There’s only one you,” would sound like an empty platitude coming from almost anyone other than Rae, who launched a career and landed a deal with HBO based on the strength of her self-starring YouTube series Awkward Black Girl.

Although it was moderated by a guy, the conversation tended toward career advice specifically for women, like asserting oneself in the workplace, demanding the pay you deserve—i.e. pay that’s tantamount to what male counterparts are making—and overcoming imposter syndrome. “At this point, no one is going to convince me I don’t belong here,” Rae said, warning against a female tendency to attribute career successes to luck.

It was a night of talk, but Rae and Handler also discussed what they’re doing to take action. Now that certain doors have been opened for women—particularly women of color—Rae said the goal has to be “making sure the door stays open.” In terms of creating opportunities, Handler added, “You have to put people in the swimming pool in order for them to swim.”

If success were contagious, every attendee would have walked away lousy with it after a couple hours in such close quarters. But even if it’s not contagious, it’s certainly infectious. Here’s some inspiration LinkedIn culled from the conversation…

Chelsea Handler on what makes a career:
“I’m good at expressing myself and being honest about it. If that’s a career then anything is a career. You can make a career out of anything. All that matters is that you care deeply about what you’re doing.”

Issa Rae on making your voice heard:
“This is the time where everyone has a voice. There are so many platforms dedicated to giving the average person a voice, so you can speak out…In a moment you can be seen and heard. This is an opportune time if you have something to say to speak out, and magical things can happen.”

Handler on taking risks to do what you love:
“A leap of faith is what leads to big things. You’re not going to find out who you are unless you fall down a bunch…You just get better at getting back up. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one is going to.”

Rae on asking for a raise:
“Working in the corporate world, i never asked for a raise… As an employer of men and women I’ve seen men have asked for their work and have had no issue and a lot of the women have not, so I make sure to empower them to ask…Keeping everything transparent is so important.”

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