Ever wanted to know what not to do when claiming to be an ally of an oppressed group? Just take a look at actor Malik Yoba who stormed off set enraged during an interview with The Root’s Terrell Jermaine Starr released Wednesday in which the former Cool Runnings actor did not take too well to being asked about claims he solicited sex work from a minor.
Following the death of Reese Willoughby, who died of a drug overdose after being bullied for openly loving a transgender woman last month, Yoba shared in a now-deleted Instagram post caption: “Trans love is ok and bullying has nothing to do with masculinity or HETEROSEXUAL behavior. I love all women and count myself among those who find themselves trans attracted.”
Shortly after the post, allegations surfaced on social media that Yoba engaged in sexual acts with underage trans girls. He denied the claims in a separate video posted to his social media account on Sept. 4, which also has since been deleted.
Yoba’s interview with The Root started with the actor declaring his longtime support for the trans community, beginning with Octavia St. Laurent of Paris Is Burning fame, whom he says was a close friend
“It’s a community that’s been shitted on and I’m glad I put something out in the world… that shook the world, literally,” Yoba said. “That’s powerful, even though there's nonsense and noise that came with it and a lot of confusion that came with it. I just know what my purpose is and my purpose has been service before self always.”
That “nonsense and noise,” presumably, is the sexual assault allegations made by Mariah Lopez Ebony, a long-time trans rights activist and executive director of STARR, the Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform. In a Facebook post, she accused the actor of soliciting sex from her at ages 13 and 16.
In an interview with The Root, Lopez Ebony detailed the two encounters. Starr asked Yoba to address the allegations on camera. Yoba said he's never met Lopez Ebony, having just read her post days before the interview.
“I don’t know her. I have no idea who she is,” he said, before stating that he is “familiar with that pain.”
“I’m familiar with people who are crying out for help,” Yoba continued. “I’m familiar with the lack of regard for this population, which is, again, my point. So, when I heard it, for me, to hear something so heinous, right, number one, and to see someone post something with no proof of anything and to see the world embrace it, or a portion of the world embrace it, that toxicity, speaks exactly to the reason I do the work that I do.”
He then preceeded to compare himself, “the first cisgender man who stands up for the community and gets attacked by that community,” to other men who’ve stood up for oppressed communities and faced backlash, including Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Marcus Garvey, and Malcolm X.
When Starr tried to interject, Yoba persisted.
“I wanna finish the point,” he said, which was “to be on the other side of that tells me that the work has to continue and the blessing will be greater because the truth will always outweigh a lie.”
Yoba then accused Starr of asking “a very loaded question” that he claimed they had discussed in advance of the interview. Starr noted that he had informed the actor the question would be asked in advance, before posing a follow-up about some feedback that Yoba has received about him centering himself, a cis man, in a conversation that should be about trans women.
After discussing a bullet wound he incurred when he was younger that could have paralyzed or killed him, Yoba likened his experience to being transgender.
“To stand up in the face of someone saying that you’re this when I know I am this, I also felt, ‘Wow. That’s kinda how it feels like to be transgender,’” he said. “Can you imagine walking into the world, looking the way you and I do, but feeling inside that something is not lining up and you need to address that?”
“I don’t think I could ever or anybody who is cisgender could ever place themselves in a trans person’s position,” Starr said.
“I think we can because I had to do it on New York Undercover,” Yoba responded, referring to the Fox drama he starred on in the 1990s. “I’m telling you that if I am this and someone is calling me this, that is akin to a transgender woman being called a man,” he said, equating people who question trans identities with those who question his heterosexuality because he’s attracted to all women.
“You may not make it but I’m making the comparison because I sat in it,” Yoba continued. “I know what it’s like for people to try and yell at me and tell me I’m gay, to tell me I’m a pedophile, to tell me what I’m not. And I have to stand up to that… And so when I talk to my transgender friends and they have people tell them what they’re not and they’re telling you that they are, that’s painful for them too.”
“So if I am gonna be the person, the first one, to stand up and take the hits. I know what it feels like and I feel I have the right to say, yes, as I stand alongside you, I do understand your pain. Not on an intellectual level but on an experiential level … I have people look at me sideways just like trans people. I have people calling me gay, just like trans people. So I have the right to tell you exactly how it feels if I choose to stand up with these folks that I love and appreciate and consider part of my humanity. And I can tell you what it feels like.”
When Starr tried to redirect the interview back to the allegations and other critiques the actor has received about centering his “trans attraction” over trans women’s needs, Yoba became visibly tense and disturbed, again accusing the interviewer of breaching an agreement they had come to about what the interview would entail. He eventually removed his mic and ended the interview.
The last two minutes of the video depicts Yoba’s expletive-laden exit in which he and what sounds like one of his representatives take further issue with the line of questioning.
“We sat for four fucking hours and you gonna stay on some fucking allegations? Fuck you,” he screams off-camera. “The fuck is wrong with you? This my fucking life.”
At the time of publication, Yoba’s reps have not responded to Out’s requests for comment. Additionally, when Out contacted the actor’s representatives for an interview earlier this month, they attempted to proceed by insisting that only questions pertaining to the Trans National Visibility March and workshop he’ll be participating in this week were asked.
“We are not looking to give more legs to any controversial stories,” this publication was told.
Meanwhile, a representative for Yoba said in a statement to The Root that the actor “categorically denies all allegations and will not respond, beyond this comment, to requests for comment.”
Yoba can be heard asking for the memory cards from video producers. “You giving life to a lie, homie,” he said before the video ends.
Watch the full interview over at The Root.