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Dancer Yainer Ariza talks kissing and licking Lil Nas X on stage: 'It's educating people'

The Colombian performer at the centre of Lil Nas X's most memorable performance reflects on the star's power in the Attitude September Style Issue.

2021-08-11

Words: Alastair James; Photography: Adam Washington

Not many can say they’ve licked and kissed Lil Nas X, but Yainer Ariza has done both.

Hailing from Colombia, where the UN reports rising levels of violence against the LGBTQ+ community, Ariza has been dancing professionally for eight years, and now all that hard work is paying off, enabling him to deliver powerful messages of authenticity to LGBTQ people across the world.

Speaking to the Attitude September Style Issue - out now to download and to order globally - just after his 24th birthday, the dancer talks about where it all began and reveals what's it's really like working with the 'Montero (Call Me By Your Name)' singer. 

“It really inspired me — him being a young, Black, gay man", Yainer says of working with Lil Nas X, 22. "It made me realise I’m going the right way and doing it how I am and being myself.

Yainer Ariza (Photography: Adam Washington)

The envy of many, Yainer has had the pleasure (which we’re 100% sure is the right word to use here) of not only licking Lil Nas X on Saturday Night Live, but he was also the one who got to kiss the rapper on stage at the BET Awards, which he reveals was orignally the idea of choreographer Sean Bankhead.

“We did the lick [on SNL] and had to continue it, so, I was the person for the kiss as well. I guess Nas agreed with it," Yainer recalls.

“It’s not just about a kiss — it’s the meaning of it, too. Doing it on international TV and being two Black, gay guys. Why not? I’m not losing anything. It was a really nice kiss.”

 
 
 
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"Licking him and kissing him - it's part of the change and it's educating people, too. It's been amazing. I'm really grateful to be a part of it."

Of Lil Nax X himslelf, real name Montero Hill, Yainer adds: “He’s really funny. He’s really social. One day in rehearsals, we went out to eat and he came to hang out. He’s a really amazing person.”

Growing up in Colombia, Yainer had a very supportive family around him - something he doesn’t take for granted.

“It would be amazing if all of us, when we came out, had the same people around us. I was really lucky to be around people that understand and support me,” he says.

But despite Colombia’s seeming advancement when it comes to LGBTQ rights, in February the UN reported that there had been 388 cases of violence against LGBTQ people in Colombia in 2020 with 76 people being killed. In 2019 there were 309 instances of violence.

 

Yainer Ariza (Photography: Adam Washington)

While Yainer, who now lives in Los Angeles, recognises that things need to improve in his home country, he also points out that things aren’t great for LGBTQ people elsewhere, highlighting the death of Samuel Luiz in Spain as an example of homophobia in a country many would otherwise deem 'progessive'.

When it comes to combatting those outdated and harmful ideas of gay people, Yainer isn’t sure what to do. “We have a lot of poor people here and the education doesn’t go all the way out here. So, people are living in a bubble.”

"But I don’t know. It’s hard because I think about me, and what I can do, being in LA, making my dreams come true. I want to be making changes here even though I’m not here."

Read the full interview in the Attitude September Style Issue, out now.

Subscribe in print and get your first three issues for just £1 each, or digitally for just over £1.50 per issue.

 
 
 
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