Lil Nas X delivered both a steamy performance and a powerful message about HIV during Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards.
The rapper and singer took home three awards at the annual ceremony, including the coveted Video of the Year award for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).”
Lil Nas X also scored Best Director for the “Montero” video, as well as Best Visual Effects.
In his speech, a visibly surprised Lil Nas X said, “OK, first I want to say thank you to the gay agenda. Let’s go gay agenda!”
He then thanked those who had worked on the video alongside him, adding, “I love you guys so much, I will not take this for granted.”
— Video Music Awards (@vmas) September 13, 2021
Lil Nas X’s win was compounded by an acclaimed performance of his song “Industry Baby,” as well as “Montero.”
He was introduced by trailblazing gay actor Billy Porter, who said the world “wasn’t ready for all of this Black boy joy.”
“It’s a new day and I’m so thankful to have lived long enough to see it,” Porter, no stranger to making history, added.
Lil Nas X then took to the stage for his performance, which included him stripping down to a pair of sparkly pink shorts and writhing around on stage with a number of male dancers.
The artist was also praised for a powerful message about HIV included in the “Montero” performance. On stage was Mardrequs Harris, director of community investments for the Southern AIDS Coalition.
Harris’ shirt had 433 816 in red emblazoned on the rear, a reference to the 433,816 people living with HIV in the U.S. South.
LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD thanked Lil Nas X for the performance, saying he had shone “a spotlight on the stigma that fuels HIV, especially across the South.”
.@LilNasX delivered a powerful performance at the #VMAs and shined a spotlight on the stigma that fuels HIV, especially across the South. Mardrequs Harris from @SouthernAIDSCo wore the number 433,816 in red, representing the the number of people living with HIV in the U.S. South pic.twitter.com/XNLvt9x9C7
— GLAAD (@glaad) September 13, 2021
In a statement released by GLAAD, Harris called his experience joining Lil Nas X on stage “surreal.”
“Having the opportunity to share the stage with Lil Nas X was something I never would have imagined,” Harris said. “And to have him use his platform to raise awareness about HIV stigma is invaluable to our work.”
GLAAD pointed to Lil Nas X’s tongue-in-cheek baby registry, launched to coincide with the Sept. 17 release of his debut album Montero.
Each song lists a charity that fans can donate to, including 13 HIV organizations who are part of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative, which trains people to combat HIV stigma and educate people about HIV, and for which the Southern AIDS Coalition is a Coordinating Center.
“When public figures like Lil Nas X — particularly those from the U.S. South — use their platforms to communicate HIV facts, it encourages a new generation to join this fight to end this epidemic once and for all,” Dafina Ward, Executive Director of the Southern AIDS Coalition, said in a statement.
“COMPASS launched four years ago with the belief that those on the front lines of HIV in the Southern United States would work better together, empowering new leaders, reaching members of their communities, and improving their capacity to care for people living with or affected by HIV.”
DaShawn Usher, associate director of Communities of Color at GLAAD, added: “Lil Nas X continues to make music and LGBTQ history, this time by using the iconic VMAs stage to highlight HIV in the U.S. South, where HIV rates and HIV stigma plague our community despite advances in prevention and the fact that people with HIV today lead long, healthy lives and, when on proper medication, cannot transmit the virus.”
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