Meet Montero

lil nas x interview

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It’s safe to assume that the world has a preconceived idea about who Lil Nas X is. Depending on who you ask, he’s a queer icon, provocateur, internet troll, or music superstar. But in his new documentary — and our interview — we catch a glimpse of the person behind the labels: Montero. 

LIL NAS X: LONG LIVE MONTERO invites us to step into the world of Lil Nas X as he embarks on his first ever tour across North America. While it only scratches at the surface of the rapper’s world, it’s the first time many of us are seeing the real person behind the social media antics. A person who turns out to be rather reserved — and preparing to fulfil everything he’d dreamt of as a child. 

Don’t get me wrong though. He still loves to mess with people. Even with me, apparently. At the start of our interview, he pretended to be on mute, mouthing words after I gushed about how much of an honour it was to speak to him. I panicked, thinking there was something wrong on my end. 

“Oh, I actually can’t hear you,” I say, deeply embarrassed that my Zoom isn’t working during an interview with a multi-Grammy award winner.

“I’m kidding, I’m sorry,” he laughs. “Hey, yeah it’s nice to meet you. I’m sorry.” 

Thanks for the slight panic attack Lil Nas X! 

This loveable, humorous person is exactly who we see in the documentary. As many concert docos show, we see the juxtaposition between the big energy, high production artist on stage from the quieter artist backstage. But none have felt as stark as Lil Nas X. On stage, he’s this larger-than-life, unapologetically queer character. Backstage and in his own world, he’s a thoughtful, reflective person navigating his sexuality and his relationships with his family. All against the backdrop of fame. 

“I feel like that’s an important thing that I could do for myself. Let people see another side of me [and] really let my guard down,” he tells me. “I feel like it’s still on the nose for an artist [to say] here’s the real me ’cause I thought it was slightly corny and whatnot. But I was like, ‘Let’s do it’. And maybe some people would connect and thankfully they have.” 

Watching the movie, you can tell that Lil Nas X is finally allowing his inner child to come out — which I connected with. It’s a transformative experience to allow the kid inside you, who you once suppressed, to feel seen, nurtured, and loved. It’s part of why we need more artists like Lil Nas X taking up space in the music industry. There’s an undeniable power in watching a Black queer man raised in the Deep South be so unapologetically successful. But what I resonated with the most was that Long Live Montero doesn’t paint queerness as a linear journey — as in, once you’ve come out, everything is all rainbows and glitter. It’s a hard process learning to love yourself as a queer person. And it was refreshing (albeit slightly heartbreaking) to see Lil Nas X, who many consider to be fearless, navigate the different road bumps. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a journey worth taking. 

“I hope [young queer people] get that it’s an ongoing battle. Once you come out that’s just the beginning of the next thing you have to do,” he says. “I’m yet to bring a boy home and just be like ‘Here’s Thanksgiving and let’s all eat together’. It’s a lot but I hope [queer people] know that they can. It takes time. I hope they think that from it.” 

While the unfiltered navigation of his sexuality is a common theme throughout the documentary, that’s not necessarily what Lil Nas X sought to capture. “There actually wasn’t anything we [wanted], it was like let’s record. Let’s see what happens. Everything just fell into place,” he says. “And I found myself discovering things about myself and how I feel about how people perceive me and how my family looks at it and stuff like that. It was accidental. I feel like it was more for me than everybody else. You know?” 

This accident makes a lot of sense. It’s what makes Long Live Montero feel more authentic. 

Queer people understand better than most that our identity is always some point of discussion. Whether it’s internal or brought up by others, all roads lead back to our sexuality. This complexity is captured in Lil Nas X’s conversations about his family, teaching his nephews “not to be homophobic”, and his sending pizza to anti-queer protestors outside his Boston concert. We were reminded of it when the documentary’s premiere was delayed by a bomb threat.  But that’s why Long Live Montero is important. Queer people around the world get to see a successful, inspiring artist try to figure it all out and thrive.

His perseverance is due in part to the monumental support around him — including from Madonna. He credits her with inspiring him as a child — though it took him almost a full minute of the precious eight I had with him to answer. 

“Let me think, give me a second,” he says, humming a song. “It’s coming. I want to say something because I always say the same artists so I want to choose some different ones.” By this point, I was on the edge of my seat. “I think Ludacris and Missy Elliott have some of the most insane music videos and the way they do that I knew I wanted to have really cool visuals and step outside of real life stuff. I feel like they really helped inspire that,” he says. 

That’s not all though. He adds, “I feel like Madonna and Nicki [Minaj] and Gaga, as far as the things they would do. Like their antics. I was like ‘Oh, this is really cool. I can do my own version of this’.” He was just about to say another name before he realised “Oh, probably not the best time to say that name right now.” I still  wonder who he was talking about. 

I’m sure there is a long list of people who want to work with Lil Nas X. Not only does he know how to drum up promo, he’s also an incredibly talented performer and rapper. But who does he want to work with? “Definitely Willow. I think she’s in her own land doing her own thing. I think that’s fucking beautiful, that’s amazing,” he says. “I really want to get into trying more country stuff with a lot of the artists that are coming up there. I think that could be cool. A nice way to segue to that, not permanently, but to try some stuff.” 

His time in Brazil also clearly inspired him: “I like Brazilian funk and the stuff that’s happening in Brazil. I think that’s really exciting. I just love their culture in general, I think it’d be dope to get into that. Even though that’s not an artist.”

I shouldn’t be surprised that he didn’t give me more artists, just an entire genre of music. It’s become clear that in whatever he does, Lil Nas X will do it his own way. If there’s one thing that I took away from the documentary and our interview, it’s that Montero, at his core, is just a goofy kid who’s been able to turn his wildest dreams into reality. Through that lens, everything else he does just makes sense.

Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero is available now to own or rent on digital platforms. 

Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and writer at Junkee. Follow them on Instagram or on X.

Image credit: Supplied