Since it’s debut last summer, LeBron James‘s HBO talk series The Shop has gained a reputation for letting its guests for be vulnerable, but that’s why it’s so upsetting that one of its most exciting new guests, Lil Nas X, was failed by the structure of the show, and his fellow guests.
The Shop takes the site of the barber shop—a space that historically has been allocated for black men to find community while getting their hair cut, and to also feel empowered to speak openly with one another, be vulnerable, and even at times just plain gossip—and turns it into a riveting talk show with some of our favorite figures in pop culture, including musicians like Mary J. Blige, pundits like Jon Stewart, and fellow NBA superstars like Mo Bamba.
The first season of The Shop saw its fair share of drama, from Lena Waithe unpacking the systemic violence inflicted upon her family by segregation and struggle she went through when coming out to her mother, to Drake revealing his real thoughts on feuding with Kanye West and speaking candidly for the first time about his son, Adonis. In these episodes, James can often be seen knowingly nodding while sipping on a glass of red wine. Real conversations happen on screen, and it’s an enjoyable watch.
But The Shop isn’t perfect. The network released a promo video for its upcoming second season of the talk show executive produced by James. In the video, Lil Nas X explains his decision to publicly announce that he is gay early on in his groundbreaking career. “It’s not that it’s like being forced, it’s just knowing growing up, I’m growing up to hate this shit,” he says, clarifying that he means “homosexuality” and “gay people” in general.
This is when Kevin Hart, who was supposed to host the Oscars this year until some of his homophobic tweets were recirculated, decided to play dumb about Lil Nas X feeling fearful to open up about his sexuality growing up. “He said he was gay, so what?” Hart, asks dismissively in the clip. The 20-year-old rapper then clapped back, saying, “Come on, now. If you’re really from the hood, you know.”
It is unfair to place that onus of explaining oneself and educating others about oppression on a member of a marginalized community. The weight of responsibility to explain the harms of homophobia should not fall on Lil Nas X, but it did, and Hart obtusely acted like he wasn’t the same person who got caught tweeting about not wanting his son to be gay. Instead of giving Lil Nas X a safe space to be vulnerable and honest, The Shop failed him.
The video went viral, and people online had some words for Hart, and shared their support for Lil Nas X.
It’s no secret that coming out can still negatively affect a celebrity’s career. Just this week, Kristen Stewart revealed that she has been told many times that if she would simply stop holding hands with her girlfriend in public, then she just might get a big blockbuster-sized check from working in a Marvel movie. This doesn’t stop at movie stars, and everyone sitting in the barber shop during the filming of this episode of The Shop knows that. Lil Nas X continued to explain himself, yet he appeared to have been coaxed or gaslit into admitting that making an announcement about his sexuality “doesn’t really matter.” But it’s clear that he found purpose in revealing this part of himself to the public, risking it all at the beginning of his success. And it does matter that one of the biggest, most popular musicians decided to come out at this crucial point in his hurtle towards stardom.