Issa Rae Speaks to UB About “exhale” Premiering Tonight on ASPiRE


ASPiRE announces the world premiere of its first original weekly talk series, “exhale.” Hosted by five dynamic, successful African-American women — journalist and media maven Angela Burt-Murray; actress and comedian Erin Jackson; director, writer and actress Issa Rae; blogger, author and TV anchor Rene Syler; and actress Malinda Williams – “exhale” is designed to bring honest, entertaining and candid discussion on a wide range of topics affecting African American women. The eight-episode series will premiere today Thursday, June 27th at 8:00 p.m. EDT to mark the one-year anniversary of the ASPiRE network’s launch. After the premiere week, new episodes will debut starting July 10 in its regularly scheduled time slot on Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. EDT each week for seven weeks.

With a unique mix of bold humor, sincerity and insight, Burt-Murray, Jackson, Rae, Syler and Williams will provide a fresh in-depth perspective on topics that are relevant and evergreen in the lives of African-American women. The five hosts from different generations, fields and backgrounds get real about family, relationships, career, money, faith and other topics of interest to modern women. An intriguing range of special guests, from celebrities and authors to religious leaders and other experts, join in the conversation and fun.

“We are thrilled to add ‘exhale’ to our lineup of original programming,” said ASPiRE General Manager Paul Butler. “This new series will spark important and interesting conversation with its broad ranges of topics relevant to African American women, the African American family and community. We hope that viewers will be inspired, informed, entertained and that they continue the conversation wherever we gather as a community.”

“’exhale’ is a show that features five amazing hosts, who will open up and talk about everything that is on the minds of women today,” says Lynne Robinson, executive producer. “In each episode, they share intimate, spirited and honest dialogue to make you laugh and sometimes make you cry. We are thrilled to bring these provocative, enlightening conversations with these dynamic women in a compelling new series to life on ASPiRE.”
“My interest in reflecting other perspectives extends beyond feature narrative. TV, in every capacity, needs to catch up with the times and minds of today,” said Victoria Mahoney, director. “‘exhale’ provides a perfect opportunity for me to help make traction in that expansion.”

Recently Issa Rae spoke to Aries from about the new series, why people should watch, info on upcoming episodes, the latest with Issa Rae Productions, upcoming projects and more! What was the motivation behind Exhale and how did you decide that you wanted to be a part of it?
Issa Rae: I decided it was something I wanted to be a part of because it’s something that I’ve never done before. I’ve always wanted to see this type of show. So when they asked me to do it, it was pretty much a no brainer. Excited to be a part of Magic Johnson’s Network. What’s been one of the best parts about doing this show?
Issa Rae: Honestly the conversations we have. Like the opening and closing conversations when it’s the five of us. Really just having an honest discussion and discussing all of our business. Listening to one another, it’s just been so much fun learning about these women. What two upcoming episodes are you the most excited for people to see?
Issa Rae: The sexuality episode, because I know we dealt with some topics that are pretty controversial. That’s one of the episodes I’m kind of nervous about because I felt like I said a little too much (laughs). But we’ll see! And then the faith and relations episode is really dynamic. I think that we really explored alternatives. We really explored the African American community and I think we did a great job of exploring all these different viewpoints. And that we’re not all Christians or believe in God, some of us are questioning our faith. So I think we have a really, really honest conversation. Overall, what do you want people to get out of Exhale?
Issa Rae: I want them to see that there is just not one type of black woman. We come from all different walks of life. At the same time it’s universal elements that make us all. So I hope when people watch they feel like they’re talking to their friends and get excited about what we have to say, that’s essentially it. When did you first start Issa Rae Productions and what was your goal when you started your business?
Issa Rae: I started my production company right when I started my second web series. I realized I really wanted to start taking web content seriously. I wanted it to be a platform for my work and I wanted to be seen to Television and Film executives. So I felt in order to legitimize what I was doing online that I needed to have a legitimate production company. I made it official in 2011 when I did Black Girl. But I was doing web videos since 2007. What inspired your web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl & did you expect the success of it?
Issa Rae: I didn’t expect the success. I thought my family and friends would like it. I felt like I was exhibiting a sense of humor that we all share. It was inspired by my sense of humor with shows of color. And shows that I really liked like Seinfeld and getting featured characters of color. So I was like let me create a show that gives the best of both worlds. Where the leading character was someone I could relate to, have a sense of humor and my sense of humor. I’m really selfish, but I did it. Tell us about some of your other projects to be looking out for?
Issa Rae: I’m working on a new series called The Choir, with Tracey Edmonds and Alright TV that’s set to premiere in July. I’m also working on a book that’s coming out in 2014, it’s a collection of essays. I’m just focused on producing and web content as well as digital content.


**Stay Tuned for Our Interview with Malinda Williams Next Week*

The first three weekly episodes include:

From dating and marriage to divorce, the “exhale” crew gets answers to the hard questions about why so many black women are single, the signs of a toxic relationship and the secret to making the perfect match.
Judge Lynn Toler, Host of “Divorce Court” (@RealJudgeLynn)
Tichina Arnold, Actress (@TichinaArnold)
Jasmine Diaz, Celebrity Matchmaker, Author and Owner of The Shawn Mackenzi Agency (@BlackMatchmaker)
Dr. Nicole LaBeach, Author, Life Coach and CEO of Volition Enterprises (

The ladies of “exhale” get to the heart of one of the biggest issues impacting the lives of black women, health. The hosts are joined by experts and survivors who explore dieting and nutrition, secrets to becoming both mentally and physically fit and preventing illnesses devastating African American women like heart disease and HIV/AIDS.
AJ Johnson, Actress, Wellness Expert and Creator of The AJ Zone (@THEAJZONE)
Dr. Felicia Wade, Physician and Author of “The Heart Of The Matter: A New Beginning” (
Simone Smith, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist and Cancer Survivor (wife of LL Cool J, @simoneismith)
Carrie Broadus, Executive Director of Women Alive (@women_alive)

Beauty and style is on tap with the ladies of “exhale” as they explore topics like fashion, the modeling industry, why hair is such a touchy subject in the African American community, and find out if black really does crack.
Beverly Johnson, Supermodel, Actress and Modelprenuer (@BeverlyJohnson1)
Dr. Susan Evans, Dermatologist and Skin Care Specialist (@DrSusanEvans)
Vanessa Simmons, Actress and Fashion Entrepreneur (@NessaSimmons)
Kim Kimble, Celebrity Hair Guru and Entrepreneur (@KimbleHairCare)

Additional episodes include:

The ladies of “exhale” are having some spirited conversation as they talk about getting through trials that put our faith to the test, religious controversies like homosexuality and the role of women in the Church and the increasing number African Americans who don’t believe – black Atheists.
Devon Franklin, Columbia Pictures Executive and Author of “Produced By Faith”
Kelly Price, R&B Artist
Pastor Beverly (“BAM”) Crawford
Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Atheist and Author of “Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and The Value Wars”

In this episode of “exhale,” the ladies talk to some veterans of entertainment and take us inside the world of music, television and film to see just what it takes to achieve success, and keep it. Viewers will hear what goes on behind the scenes of some of the biggest projects in Hollywood and how they overcome the unique challenges blacks in the entertainment industry face.
Jeffrey Osborne, R&B Singer
Keisha Knight Pulliam, Actress
Kym Whitley, Actress and Comedienne
Kevin Rodney Sullivan, Director, Producer and Writer

Can black women really have it all? Career, money and a family? That’s what the ladies of “exhale” are trying to find out as they sit down with experts and talk about the secrets to a successful career, the biggest career and financial mistakes that black women make, how to keep disputes over money from ruining relationships and how to come back from financial disaster.
Vanessa Bell Calloway, Actress
Sharon Epperson, CNBC Correspondent
Keith Douglas, Entrepreneur and Author
Paula Madison, a partner in The Williams Group Holdings and CEO of The LA Sparks.

In this episode, the ladies are talking about the taboo subject of sex as they focus on topics like women’s sexual expression and obsessions, healthy versus unhealthy sex, the objectification of black women and being a sex symbol in Hollywood.
Lance Gross, Actor
Antonique Smith, Actor
Dr. Elana Clark Faler, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Sex Specialist
Nourbese Flint, Program Manager with Black Women for Wellness.

The “exhale” team explores breaking free from hurts that can hold us captive – fear, anger, depression, addictions and other vices. Covering the all too real struggles many of us have with overcoming past hurts and the importance of forgiveness.
Kim Coles, Actress, Comedienne, Author and Host
Sarah Jakes, Senior Project Manager of The Potter’s House Woman-To-Woman Ministry and daughter of TD Jakes
Todd Bridges, Actor, Writer and Director
Gabriella Jordan, Executive Coach and President of the Education Division of The Handel Group,


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