Lil Nas X is claiming his space.
Recently gracing the cover of Out Magazine’s Fashion issue, the 22-year-old artist reflected on his much-discussed and debated performance at the 2021 BET Awards. If you recall correctly, he performed his also much-discussed and debated hit song (specifically, its music video), “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” During the awards show, his electric performance hit a jolting climax when he tongue-kissed one of the male backup dancers.
“Going to this place with all these overly masculine rappers and you’re finna be in there throwing a little ass every now and then, touching on dudes and hugging them and kissing them…at some points I was like, ‘Should I even do this? I don’t feel like they’re going to love me like that,’” Lil Nas X told Out Mag, ruminating on the anxiety-inducing build-up to such a huge moment.
As 2020 The Root 100 honoree and Out Mag cover story writer Tre’vell Anderson accurately pointed out, BET hasn’t been a consistently safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community, whether it was as a network or its annual awards shows. Additionally, Lil Nas X has directly addressed the respectability politics and self-hatred within the community, following his much-talked-about performance at this summer’s awards show. The constant Black queer erasure is absolutely a valid concern—and so is the subsequent concern on whether that desire for representation should mean navigating spaces where one doesn’t feel safe. It’s quite the conundrum to navigate.
“And [people always say] go where you’re accepted and stuff like that, but you can’t always just go where you’re accepted,” Lil Nas X said. “You’ve got to go and break down those walls and say, ‘This is my space now, too.’”
We always proudly applaud Lil Nas X for his trolling and marketing skills—it takes a lot of strength to be able to go head-to-head with the swarm of hateful messages we assume he’s privy to every day. And he does it with a wit that cannot be matched. Clearly, he has experience with that given his background running Nicki Minaj superfan accounts on social media. Still, there’s Lil Nas X...and there’s Montero Lamar Hill. There is absolutely a whole person behind that persona. So yes, that shit gets to him sometimes.
“But I won’t pretend like I’m never sad or anything,” he mused. “I’ve had a bunch of hard times this past week, after that performance and before the performance. But for me, that’s life, and one thing I 100 percent never do when I’m in these down moments is go to social media with them. Because I know that they’re going to pass, and what a lot of people like to do is use that against you.”
Overall, Lil Nas X is admittedly still on a journey to finding and becoming his “full self.” It’s a journey that’s fully his and I’m constantly in awe of how he’s walking it...unapologetically.