Issa Rae made a statement on the red carpet with a belt featuring the N-word at the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) annual fashion awards on Monday night.
Rae’s belt, inscribed with the message “Every Nigga Is a Star,” was part of a blue jumpsuit made by politically minded designer Kerby Jean-Raymond for the label Pyer Moss. He told The Hollywood Reporter that the belt was added at the last minute.
The belt was inspired by the cultural phenomenon he’s observed of black people often being depicted as tragic figures. “We never talk about who they love, people with their children and their love for their families. It’s always a tragic figure or as firsts—first black man to do this, first black person to do this—but what about just a bus driver?” he says. “We don’t have to be Jay-Z, we don’t have to be Kerby Jean-Raymond, we don’t have to be Issa Rae, we can just be who we are and just exist and we’re still superstars in our own rights, no matter what we do.”
It was important to him to champion the phrase to show that loving a mother, caring for children or taking your daughter to school is important. As for the controversy surrounding using the N-word in fashion, Jean-Raymond says: “If you don’t get it, it’s not for you. If you don’t get it, you weren’t supposed to. It’s not meant to be political. It’s meant to be uplifting.”
The Insecure star was hosting the star-studded dinner event held at the Brooklyn Museum, which saw celebrities such as Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong’o, Trevor Noah, Michael Kors and more in as presenters, with awards dished out to likes of Kim Kardashian West, Ralph Lauren, Supreme, Raf Simons and Donatella Versace.
As well as making her mark on the red carpet, Rae, the first African-American to emcee the CFDA awards, as well as the first woman to host in nine years, didn’t let up on politics inside the event. Her opening monologue was laced with political jokes, and she took shots at Kanye West, making reference to his recent comments over slavery.
“I’m as fashionable as Kanye West is black. Only when it’s convenient,” Rae joked.