Issa Rae is possibly the first woman to lend her voice to a smart speaker

Issa Rae who is an actress, writer, and producer will be the next celebrity to make a cameo on Google Assistant. Rae’s voice is available for a limited time in the U.S. starting today.

The Insecure show creator’s welcoming voice will be available on any device that has Google Assistant including Google Home, mobile for iOS, Android, and Smart TV. According to Google, you can activate Rae’s voice on your device by saying, “Hey Google, talk like Issa.”

Rae follows singer John Legend’s footsteps in this endeavour, who lent his voice in April.

She said that when the opportunity presented itself, it was an organic process. “I was in talks to do this last year and was just really intrigued, like, ‘What? They want my voice? Why?’” Rae told CNN. “Then, you know, I realized that I use Google Assistant frequently anyway and just thought about how cool it would be to do.”

The actress said she spent countless hours in a recording studio, spitting a bunch of phrases and words in efforts to synchronize the recording. Rae said it was a challenge, notwithstanding that she had to pronounce things she’s never said aloud before.

“I’m just so used to reading them. So you’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve never actually had to say this word out loud,’” she said. “It was unique. I’d never done anything like that before.”

Rae might have been a bit frazzled by the experience, but she said that Google was very supportive of her partnership. “I mean, you’re just always scared,” she said. “But, no, I was very much assured by the Google team that this was all in fun and several conversations were had to make me feel comfortable doing it.”

However, Rae’s voice will be different than what Google achieved with John Legend’s voice. With Legend, Google used DeepMind to simulate his voice and deliver natural-sounding responses to pretty much any question. In the case of Rae, she only recorded specific responses to general questions, so it’s not nearly as powerful.

Just as it is with the new Samuel L. Jackson voice skill for Amazon Alexa, users can ask for certain information from Rae, including the weather, news, jokes: just for fans of Rae and her work, motivational messages and answers to questions like, “When’s the first day of winter?”

Starting with “Hey Google,” users can ask:

  • “ … do I need an umbrella today?”
  • “ … tell me a secret.”
  • “ … what do you think of me?”
  • “ … give me a quote from Issa Rae.”
  • “ … sing a song.”
  •  “ … do you have any dating advice?”
  • Or “How do I look?” for “a confidence-boosting affirmation.”

Issa Rae, the new voice of Google Assistant

However, all other responses except for the Easter eggs below will remain in one of the original Assistant voices. Apart from those boring standard questions, you can also ask Google Assistant Issa about Insecure.

Easter eggs for Rae as Google Assistant include:

  • Are you single?
  • Do you have a TV show?
  • Give me some writing advice.
  • What do you think about Lawrence?
  • What is your best pickup line?
  • Are you awkward?
  • Do you know any yo momma jokes?
  • Compliment me.
  • Can you rap?
  • Can you beatbox?
  • Should I watch Insecure?
  • What was your major?
  • Are you a writer?
  • How do you pronounce your name?
  • What’s your full name?
  • What do you think of John Legend?
  • Do you love Daniel or Lawrence More?
  • Who is your best friend?
  • Do you ever talk to yourself in the mirror?

Google Assistant vice president of product Manuel Bronstein said cameo voices were one of the top requests Google received from users and Issa Rae is likely the first female celebrity to lend her voice to a digital assistant from Amazon or Google, which dominate the smart speaker market in the U.S. 

Google offers 12 voices for Google Assistant including Rae and Legend, which Google said represents a diverse mix when they were asked about Rae as the first female voice. Though, Google also said that the company doesn’t think of Google Assistant as having a particular gender, which is reflected in the name Google Assistant.

Apart from singer John Legend, Issa Rae’s predecessors include comedian Stephen Colbert on Google subsidiary Waze in 2015, actor Morgan Freeman in 2016, Dateline host Keith Morrison in 2017 and DJ Khaled in 2019.

Google randomly assigns a voice when users set up a Google Home device, so users have a 50/50 chance of getting either the “red” voice or the “orange” voice, according to Google. As much as the company doesn’t formally designate voices as being male or female, it said users can think of the “red” voice as traditionally female sounding and the “orange” voice as traditionally male-sounding.

Google will also be pushing the new feature on Instagram on Thursday with “exclusive sneak peeks into Issa’s life on set.”


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