BET is finally working on bettering its LGBTQ representation, but change is needed behind the camera too.
Last week, the BET TV channel celebrated its annual awards ceremony. But while the channel pat itself on the back for 40 years of depicting Black stories, Black queer people spoke up for the lack of queer storytelling. Specifically, Pose and American Horror Story: 1984’s Angelica Ross publicly messaged the BETAwards’ official Twitter account to point out this lack of representation.
“In 40 years how many shows on @BET have positive Black gay or trans representation,” she wrote. “How many openly Black gay or trans actors & artists are invited to the #BETAwards? Oscars my be so white, but the #BETawards ain’t that inclusive either. No heat. Just facts.”
In 40 years how many shows on @BET have positive Black gay or trans representation? How many openly Black gay or trans actors & artists are invited to the #BETAwards? Oscars my be so white, but the #BETawards ain’t that inclusive either. No heat. Just facts. https://t.co/elOSs6bfz7
— Angelica Ross (@angelicaross) June 28, 2020
In response to this post, writer/actor/producer Lena Waithe announced that she’s in talks with BET executives to work on the queer representation on the tv station.
“Just had this conversation,” she wrote. “I’m working with them to ensure this never happens again. I stand with you.”
Just had this conversation. I’m working with them to ensure this never happens again. I stand with you. https://t.co/XLAm9DAqTD
— Lena Waithe (@LenaWaithe) June 28, 2020
For the most part, this is great news. Lena Waithe has truly established herself as a growing power within Hollywood. Most recently, Waithe created the comedy series Twenties, which premiered on BET this past March. The show, based on Waithe’s own experiences during her twenties, follows a queer black woman and her two straight friends as they tackle life, love, and work in Hollywood.
After premiering earlier this year, Twenties has gained critical acclaim. Adding that to her other successful show Boomerang, and it seems BET is lucky to be working with Lena Waithe. As such, hearing that she’s in meetings with BET executives is no surprise.
But that isn’t the end of this story. Waithe’s tweet then led to radio host, internet celebrity, and Ebony advice columnist B. Scott joining the conversation.
“It would have been nice if @BET were open to having that conversation after they booted me from that carpet and prevented me from doing the job they hired me for,” Scott wrote.
— B. Scott (@lovebscott) June 28, 2020
Scott is referencing the time he was pulled off the 2013 BET Awards red carpet, according to Aazios. In 2013, Scott was working as an on-camera host for the awards. Before showing up to the event, Scott was given pre-approval for wearing loose black pants, a sleeveless top, a flowing navy tunic, and high heels. But when he showed up, Scott’s clothing was deemed not “masculine” enough.
“I needed to pull my hair back, mute my makeup, change into solely men’s clothing, and take off my heels and put on flats,” Scott recalled to the Advocate in 2015. “That to me was just so shocking, it was like, ‘You’re not accepted. We do not approve of you.’ It made me feel less than, it made me feel like something was wrong with me.”
Scott then entered a court battle with BET over the incident. That trial was eventually “settled,” according to B. Scott.
At its best, BET has a representation problem with only two shows featuring LGBTQ characters (which were both created by Waithe). At its worst, the tv channel has a major homophobia/transphobia problem. Hopefully, Lena Waite is up to the task of tackling this issue. But no matter what, it’s a tall task ahead of her.