Lil Nas X Was Afraid of Performing at the BET Awards but 'You Can't Always Go Where You're Accepted'
"[The BET performance] was like jumping in a lake full of sharks and piranhas," Lil Nas X told Out Magazine. PEOPLE has an exclusive behind-the-scenes video of his cover shoot
Speaking to Out as their latest cover star, the "Industry Baby" star, 22, opened up about the nerves he felt before — and even after! — hitting the stage at the awards show, where he notably kissed a male dancer on stage. (PEOPLE has an exclusive behind-the-scenes video of his photoshoot.)
"Going to this place with all these overly masculine rappers and you're finna be in there throwing a little ass every now and then, touching on dudes and hugging them and kissing them…at some points I was like, 'Should I even do this? I don't feel like they're going to love me like that,'" he told Tre'vell Anderson.
However, he took the risk and sparked an important conversation about queer people in spaces like the awards show.
"[People always say] go where you're accepted and stuff like that, but you can't always just go where you're accepted," he said. "You've got to go and break down those walls and say, 'This is my space now too.'"
The musician added that it can be "really draining and straining" to feel the pressures of being himself completely but also representing the gay community.
"The pressure of living your entire life knowing the identity of what a rapper is supposed to be, what rappers [are supposed to] do, and going out there in front of all these people, it's terrifying," he said. "[The BET performance] was like jumping in a lake full of sharks and piranhas — and I've had to do that so many times within these last three years. Even coming out, that was terrifying. When I put on the costume of Nicki, terrifying."
King of quips and clapbacks, he also admitted he has moments where he does have "hard moments" even if he doesn't show it online.
RELATED VIDEO" From Becoming An Inspiration For His Fans, To His Fashion Sense, Lil Nas X Stays True To Himself
"But for me, that's life, and one thing I 100% never do when I'm in these down moments is go to social media with them," he said. "Because I know that they're going to pass, and what a lot of people like to do is use that against you."
The singer also candidly explained that he is still in the process of fully finding himself and living his true identity. He named the album Montero, his given name, because "there are a lot of things I've been going through and dealing with and wanting to say."
"I'm still not my full self," he said, "but that fear of the people around you that you're the closest to and loving the most not understanding why you're doing what you're doing, that's something we just have to let go of. All of this is in pursuit of becoming my full self, more and more."
The "Old Town Road" star also explained that he started his career wanting to be successful and "looking to blend in," but those wishes have now shifted.
"Now I genuinely don't mind and wish to do my own thing and stand out. I wanted to just be an artist at first. I wanted to just make music," he said. "But now I have even more of a purpose: to continue to find myself and, by doing so, help others find themselves."
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