After a public fallout with ViacomCBS, reality TV star and entrepreneur Jason Lee announced that his contract with the network had been terminated.
Before Lee, the founder of multi-platform media company Hollywood Unlocked, was fired from his five-year contract earlier this month, he broke the network that catapulted his career in the media and entertainment industries. During an exclusive interview with BLACK COMPANY Back in November, Lee accused network manager of Love and Hip Hop on VH1, owned by ViacomCBS, of pressuring him to play a stereotypical role as a queer black man.
"I felt like Viacom had put me into a stereotype," Lee said recently BEand stated that he felt typed into a character known for “creating conflict”. He continued, "I don't think they could see me for anything other than a gay, messy blogger."
Lee first appeared in two episodes of the second season of Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood in 2015, in which he was embroiled in an infamous rivalry with Hazel-E. He played a major role in seasons 3 and 6. However, he says his core values and morals have evolved since then.
"I'm not here anymore," he said. "I've evolved as an individual and as a brand. My company has grown. I've had people I'm responsible for and I've met fans who tell me they look up to me and I just know they don't." look up to me when they throw drinks at people, especially women. "
Lee also said that the media conglomerate, which also owns MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and CBS News, first tried to censor him and his work for Hollywood Unlock, one of the largest digital platforms for celebrity and urban news on the internet.
“They actually put a language on my contract that said they could sue me for $ 2 million if I spoke negatively about the network. Look, I'm a great media company, ”he said. “You want to censor me so that I can come on your show and denigrate black people? That's crazy! And so I basically told them, "No, I won't come back to the network under a gag order." I will report what I see, when I see it, how I see it [and] what I feel about it transparently. "
The language was eventually removed, but the situation left a bad taste in Lee's mouth, making him feel like the network didn't trust him and wanted to control him.
Earlier this month, the 43-year-old aspiring media mogul announced that he was fired from his contract after publicly speaking on the matter and initiating the #FreeJasonLee social media campaign. He also thanks Mona Scott Young, creator of the Love and Hip Hop franchise, for her personal advocacy of its release.
"It's a small victory in a much bigger war," says Lee. "I think that anyone who is in a network that does not promote inclusion in all ranks and has the feeling of being used as an instrument for further developing conflicts in our culture should conduct a self-examination."
Despite the ramifications, Lee says he is "very grateful" for the "transactional" relationship he had with ViacomCBS and that he hopes "that at some point in the future there can be an open dialogue with more people around the table". He also plans to return to Wild N & # 39; Out, a popular hip hop improvisational show on VH1. However, his criticism of ViacomCBS serves as a message for the entire media industry.
“Black Lives Matter means more than a post or a tweet. It means your direct action and how you create content with and for our employees that has a direct impact on our culture. "