When Madonna shared a same-sex smooch with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, it was a sensation, but when openly gay pop singer Adam Lambert enjoyed a similar moment with a male band member at the 2009 American Music Awards, it caused a backlash that nearly derailed his career. Years later, Lambert discussed these “double standards” with Yahoo Entertainment and said he believed that pop had since become “an entirely different landscape. … Now we have out artists that are finding total commercial success. Like me kissing a guy on the f***ing AMAs was like, such a scandal, and I really don’t think it would be now.”
That societal progress was evident Sunday — during the final weekend of Pride Month — at the BET Awards, when Lil Nas X ended his fiery performance of the homoerotic hit “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” by passionately kissing one of his male backup dancers. In 2021, this move was met not with scorn but with delight, as Nas's fearlessness was widely celebrated on social media. Hip-hop mogul Sean Combs was one of the many Lil Nas X fans who tweeted his support, leaving Nas himself in awe.
Lil Nas X came out on the last day of Pride Month in 2019, an especially brave announcement considering that he was still riding high from the groundbreaking chart success of his country/hip-hop crossover smash “Old Town Road,” and both the country and hip-hop fanbases have been historically conservative when it comes to homosexuality. But the reaction on Twitter at that time was largely positive and encouraging, and the now-22-year-old Atlanta singer and rapper has been pushing the envelope ever since — most notably this year with his controversial “Montero” music video, which depicted him being cast out of the Garden of Eden, riding a stripper pole to Hell, and giving Satan a lapdance.
This Sunday, Nas walked the BETs’ red carpet in not one but two drop-dead-gorgeous lewks — a corseted ballgown and a floral bellbottomed suit — and then hit the Microsoft Theater stage in yet another wardrobe change, rocking a skimpy gold pharaoh costume for an Egyptian-themed number inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video. After he capped off his daring performance by lustfully making out with the above-mentioned shirtless dancer, Nas received a standing ovation, while Twitter exploded with praise for this landmark moment of Black LGBTQ+ representation.
The 2021 BET Awards took place at Los Angeles’s Microsoft Theater on Sunday, June 27. In her acceptance speech for her lifetime achievement award, Queen Latifah also gave a shout-out to the LGBTQ+ community, declaring, “Happy Pride!” to huge applause.
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