By pulling Internet celebrity and transgender icon B. Scott off the stage at the 2013 BET Awards because of his appearance, the nation’s largest African-American network now faces a high-profile multi-million dollar discrimination lawsuit.
The self-described "Multimedia Maven" shot to fame on the same wave that propelled Perez Hilton into the public sphere; and like Hilton, successfully transitioned from digital into TV and radio. In addition to his web presence, B. Scott expanded his portfolio as contributing editor to Glam, is the author of the "Ask B. Scott" advice column via EBONY.com and creator of the B. Scott apparel and beauty products.
It was these creative endeavors that attracted BET officials, who tapped B. Scott to be the style stage correspondent and to do a series of 12 segments during the pre-show of the awards on June 30. B. Scott, whose persona always included gender-bending and androgyny, explains how there weren’t any issues regarding his attire until after taping began.
"Everybody I spoke with commented on how fabulous I looked," B. Scott recalls. In an open letter on his website, he describes how during preproduction, five hours before show time, no one raised an issue with his appearance or why BET stylists and producers approved his clothing, hair, and make-up. B. Scott goes on to say he was complemented on his look by BET staff.
More over, the attire originally chosen, a sleeveless blue tunic, black pants and heel, was prudish compared to the couture larger-than-life rappers Li’l Kim and Niki Minaj have made their red carpet trademarks.
"There was never any indication that there was an issue," B. Scott writes. "There was no pushback. I was simply there to do my job."
B. Scott’s persona is hardly an industry secret, on BET or off. By his own count, B. Scott has been on television at least 30 times and BET twice, having appeared on the network’s 106 and Park video countdown show - in full regalia - without any controversy. After interviewing TV personality A.J. Calloway, however, B. Scott tells EDGE how the atmosphere very quickly changed.
"I was snatched, literally yanked, off-stage, dragged back behind the stage, and was told that my outfit was unacceptable from head to toe," B. Scott recalls. "They said I needed to pull my hair back, I needed to remove my make-up, that I needed to change into solely men’s clothing and take off my heels and put on flats. I couldn’t even wear a boot."
Even after B. Scott complied, he found himself replaced entirely by The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon. It was only through the actions of a quick-eyed representative from Proctor & Gamble, which sponsored the event, that B. Scott was able to resume his role on the carpet, albeit in a diminished capacity.
Like most LGBTQ people, B. Scott (who had identified as a gay man with feminine tendencies but in light of his experience now identifies as a "trans-feminine man") is no stranger to bully tactics, having been on the receiving end of them much of his life.
"But what was different about this was that it was done publicly," he says; his fans and associates literally saw the whole event unfold. "I was publicly humiliated in front of a live audience and my peers. To my left was the BET 106 & Parkway group, and my front was the press bar."
BET’s actions were doubly painful -- adding insult to injury was the fact that BET represented a tier of success and community acceptance the mixed-race B. Scott, who has an Irish mother and black father, had long tried to reach. B. Scott admits that initially he did not want to address the issue in public forum, but because of the instantaneous outcry on Twitter by outraged on-site fans, he took to his website.
"I had to (write an) open letter to clarify what had happened and to address all of the people who had written about it and posted tweets," he said.
B. Scott and his lawyer filed the discrimination charge against BET and parent company Viacom, on August 9th in Los Angeles Superior Court, to which the network responded with the statement: "BET Networks embraces global diversity in all its forms and seeks to maintain an inclusive workforce and a culture that values all perspectives and backgrounds...The incident with B. Scott was a singular one with a series of unfortunate miscommunications from both parties. We regret any unintentional offence to B. Scott and anyone with in the LGBT community."
It is an apology B. Scott and his lawyer, Waukeen McCoy, find evasive at best.
"This was a very difficult decision for me to make. But the reason I decided to do it is because I want people to know that it is OK to be who you are regardless of how you express yourself. I’m fighting for the people who don’t have a voice," B. Scott said.
From our media partner EDGE