Is Keith Lee Getting Too Big For His Britches?

Even after almost a week, everyone is still talking about the Keith Lee and Taraji P. Henson moment from the BET Awards. An otherwise light-hearted skit took a left turn that has folks staking sides on whose to blame for something that, ultimately, doesn’t really matter.

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But it’s also bringing the celebrity of Keith Lee, one of TikTok’s most popular and followed food critics, into consideration, begging the question: “Is Keith Lee as famous as he seems to think he is?”

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In case you missed it, Henson, who hosted the award show this year, passed out flowers to various audience members. At one point, Henson passed a rose to Jordan Howlett, confusing the YouTube star for Lee.

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Henson realized her oversight immediately and ran over to Lee with the flower for him, apologizing in the moment. Lee accepted the flower, but as Buzzfeed pointed out, posted a now-deleted Tiktok of him dropping the flower to the ground, with a caption that read, “Our name will be known in every room it’s supposed to be, when it’s supposed to be, how it’s supposed [to be], with no confusion … God is amazing.”

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This video suggests that Lee seems to believe that his star is big enough that he shouldn’t have to suffer mistaken identity in 2024. But is he really a celebrity like that? Sure, he had his moment last year when even white folks learned his name following his critique of Atlanta restaurants — but does a viral moment a celebrity make?

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Lee eventually posted another video clarifying his feelings, saying that he is not upset with Henson “by any stretch of the imagination” and adding that she “smoked” the show.

“The reason I did this had nothing to do with Taraji P. Henson,” he continued. “The reason I did this is that I wholeheartedly believe it wasn’t my rose. It wasn’t my moment. It was given to me, but it wasn’t mine.” He then seemed to place the blame on “rushed” production that was “not intentional or personal.”

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“Never once was I upset that Taraji didn’t know who I was,” Lee added. “Everything that’s for me, will be for me. Everything that’s for my family, will be for my family…While I appreciate the opportunity, it wasn’t my moment.”

Henson seemed annoyed by the whole conversation.

“Life really is too short for this behavior,” she commented on Instagram, noting that Lee was actually not in his assigned seat. “They give celebrity assigned seats! I rehearsed all damn day to go hit my mark and that young man wasn’t in his seat so HE MISSED HIS MOMENT! His ego is hurt. He will be fine. I cleaned it up at the end of the show. No love lost here. #Godbless.”

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Many were shocked by her response to Lee’s video. “keith lee explained his feelings so well,” another user wrote. “said he had no ill feelings toward taraji and gave her, her flowers. why would she respond in such a nasty way????

Some people just seemed exhausted by the entire conversation altogether, with one user writing, “I’m still gonna support Keith Lee. I’m still gonna support Taraji P. Henson. This discussion needs to end.”

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The mishap shines a light on the shift in what we consider “celebrity” in 2024. YouTube and TikTok stars weren’t really a thing a decade ago, so perhaps folks like Lee, with several million social media followers, feel like they are on the same level as box office superstars.

Still, while not as “famous” as A-listers, Lee was invited to attend the BET Awards just like everyone else in the audience and deserves to be recognized as such. At the same time, perhaps we need to extend that same grace for honest mistakes like Henson’s, especially during the high wire act that are live awards shows.

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