Lil Nas X Attacked by Haters After BET Performance, How it Compares to Treatment of Adam Lambert

Catherine DiMeglio
Taylor Fox
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Adam Lambert and Lil Nas XMatt Winkelmeyer/Rachel Murray/GettyImages

Some of the biggest and most respected artists in history, have stirred up controversy at some point in their careers. When you achieve that level of public influence, it just comes with the territory. But recently, Lil Nas X came under fire for his steamy performance at the 2021 BET Awards. The backlash thrown at the “Old Town Road” singer is highly reminiscent of the scandal surrounding Adam Lambert’s 2009 AMA performance, begging the question: is it because they’re gay?  


Are Gay Artists More Heavily Criticized for Sexy Performances?

What makes these two stars different when a number of artists have demonstrated similar behavior? In 2003, Madonna shared a kiss with both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards. While the scene was a shock to the audience, it in no way put their careers at risk. Miley Cyrus recently pole-danced on a dancer during a 4th of July performance, and last month she made out with a (male) TikTok star on social media to promote a new song.

Meanwhile, Lambert has openly criticized the media for the way he is covered. Early in his career, interviewers focused on his ‘suggestive’ behavior and the fact that he was openly gay. He has suggested that if he were a straight man, he would have had an even bigger career, even if he were hyper-sexual as long as that sexuality was directed toward women.

Not all on stage scandals are perceived the same way by the public. What is deemed to be “acceptable” for viewers is clearly not the same for gay as opposed to straight performers. The double standard that exists between communities is evident in our media today. For years, any open association with homosexuality has been grounded as a roadblock to “mainstream” content. Now, history seems to be repeating itself with how Lil Nas is being treated.


Lil Nas X Shares Photo of On-Stage Kiss

At the 2021 BET Awards, Lil Nas X sang his hit single “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” alongside an all-male dance crew. The near end of the performance is what seems to be drumming up massive media attention. Just as the final few bars of music played on stage, Lil Nas X shared a passionate kiss with one of his backup dancers. His bold choice quickly raised some eyebrows, leading the artist to express himself on social media.

“Y’all hate yourselves so much. y’all live your lives trying your best to appease straight ppl. y’all are uncomfortable with what i do because y’all are afraid they will be uncomfortable with you,” the singer wrote in response to a Twitter user bashing his performance. “Work on yourselves, i love who i am and whatever i decide to do. get there.” 

The photo of the moment, shared to Lil Nas’ Instagram has a familiar name in the comments. Lambert himself supported the post via five hand clapping emojis.


Adam Lambert’s 2009 AMA Scandal

In 2009, American Idol runner up, Adam Lambert, faced the same backlash put upon Lil Nas today. Fresh off the Idol scene, the artist decided to embrace his authentic self. That year, Lambert performed his debut single “For Your Entertainment” at the American Music Awards. His exceptional vocals were unfortunately overshadowed by his spontaneity on stage. At the height of the performance, Lambert decided to go for a passionate kiss with a male dancer. This choice shocked audiences both in the venue and at home. The risky decision put his early success in limbo.

Prior to the AMA performance, the artist was scheduled to perform the single the following day on Good Morning America. Upon arrival in New York, Lambert was told he had been removed from the show’s lineup. His team quickly scrambled to find a new show for him to perform on on a new network. Lambert was booked on CBS’s The Early Show last minute, but there was a catch. Lambert was only allowed to perform if he provided a sit down interview about the AMA controversy.

“We’ve seen lot’s of sexualized performances throughout the last 20 years on television,” Lambert shared. “On award shows, wearing assless chaps, doing a sexual dance, making out or grabbing. What I was trying to say was, how is me doing one of these things different than the other? And to me, I’m like I’m being targeted because i’m gay.”

Lambert said in his Early Show interview that he was a target not only because he is gay, but also because he is male. He compared his actions with that of Spears, Madonna, and Aguilera. Interestingly, the morning show re-aired the kiss between the three women. Lambert’s actions on the other hand, were fully censored by the show.

Performance Backlash Still Problematic Despite Ten Years’ Difference

Many people drew back from working with the singer after these events. Although it did take him a while to bounce back from the controversy, his career has proven to be more successful than ever. Lambert is currently the frontrunner for the iconic band Queen, a nearly impossible task succeeding the late Freddie Mercury.

Queer artists Adam Lambert and Lil Nas X alike have both triumphed in the face of adversity. What’s so shocking is that more than ten years separates the two events, yet the reaction has been eerily similar. In a world that claims to be more accepting and more inclusive, why are people still trolling Lil Nas for expressing his sexuality?

From the time he burst on the scene in “Old Town Road” covered in glitter and sequence, the artist has been authentically himself and open about his sexuality. Why would viewers expect anything different? It’s time for the world to take a step back and let artists in the LGBTQIA+ community express themselves however they see fit.

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