Malik Yoba stormed out of a tense on-camera interview last week after being confronted with allegations he had solicited sex from underage trans girls during the 1990s and early 2000s.
The interview was conducted by The Root reporter Terrell Jermaine Starr, who had pressed Yoba about the recent controversy surrounding his participation in the Trans National Visibility March, which will take place this Thursday. The backlash stems from a recent Instagram post where Yoba declared his attraction toward transgender women. The 52-year-old said he was inspired to share the post after learning about the death of Maurice Willoughby—an aspiring rapper who was harassed over his relationship with a transwoman.
"I love ALL women AND count MYSELF among those that find themselves trans attracted and I too have felt the self imposed shame that comes with that truth but it’s time to speak up," Yoba wrote in the since-deleted post. "It is NOT about GENITALIA OR SEX but about attraction to the soul and humanity of an individual and often the beauty that is in the courage and conviction to live ones truth! As a self identified cis heterosexual man I too am learning what it means to be trans attracted. Many of us famous and otherwise that have struggled with accepting our attraction so we do NOTHING."
Many people praised Yoba for speaking his truth; however, shortly after Yoba made the declaration, a trans activist accused the actor of soliciting her while she was engaging in survival sex work as a teen. The accuser, Mariah Lopez Ebony, made the allegations via Facebook. The post read in part:
For all who applaud and solute Malik Yoba for revealing he is so called ‘Trans Attracted’, understand that either because of deeper issues he has or, because of ‘society’ pushing him and others to deep, dark places, his admission to being sexually attracted to Trans women, is bound to open a Pandora’s box for him; not because the women are Trans, But because many of the Trans women he engaged in sexual exploration and exploitation with on 14th Street, Times Square and elsewhere, were minors. Including myself.
Starr questioned Yoba about the allegations, which the actor has continuously denied.
"I don’t know her. I have no idea who she is," he said (7:47). "I am familiar with that pain, I’m familiar with that trauma. I’m familiar with people who are crying out for help. 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."
Yoba went on to compare himself to figures like Malcolm X and Gandhi and anyone else who was attacked for standing up for oppressed people. The actor likened the recent controversy to the experiences of the trans community.
"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 (12:05). "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?"
Starr told Yoba that he doesn't believe any cisgender person could ever know what a transgender person feels like. Yoba insisted he knew exactly how it felt, because he once had to "dress up" as a transwoman in an episode of New York Undercover.
"That’s fiction, though. That’s not real life," Starr said.
"Yeah, but you’re missing my point. You’re making your point. The point that I’m making is that you asked me what does it feel like to stand up in the face of this. And 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."
Starr attempted to redirect the conversation to criticism among sex workers who believe Yoba fetishizes transwomen "and not having intimate and loving relationships with them (14:45)." The actor said he didn't know what Starr was talking about and refused to respond to the criticism. Starr then asked about the accusations that Yoba was being opportunistic and putting too much emphasis on his sexual attraction rather than trans issues. Yoba became visibly upset and suggested Starr had broken an agreement about what would be discussed during their sit-down. He then took off his mic and called the whole situation a "setup."
"We sat for four fucking hours and you gonna stay on some fucking allegations? Fuck you," he shouted after walking off set. "The fuck is wrong with you? This my fucking life."
Yoba is then heard telling The Root team to hand over the SD card for the interview. The crew refused.
The outlet reached out to Yoba's camp for comment after the incident. His representative said, "Mr. Yoba categorically denies all allegations and will not respond, beyond this comment, to requests for comment."
You can watch the video above.
The Root also conducted a phone interview with Lopez, who doubled-down on her claims against Yoba. The 34-year-old activist said she had two sexual encounters with Yoba; one when she was 13, and the other when she was 16. Lopez said Yoba had paid her $80 for the first sex act, but refused to go into details.
"I will say, that based on my personal experience in the instance you’re inquiring about but also my further knowledge of him personally, he has a proclivity for sexual intercourse that is homoerotic," she said.
Ja’nese Bussey, another transgender woman, backed Lopez's claims in a separate phone interview. Bussey said she had performed sex work with Lopez about two decades ago.
Per The Root:
Bussey confirmed Lopez was 13-years-old at the time. On two occasions, Bussey, who says she went by the name "Charisse" during her time as a sex worker, said Yoba gave her money in exchange for sex. He also asked her if she could find him “teenage girls” for sex, Bussey claims.