Androgynous TV Host Sues Viacom & BET

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Cross-dressing fashionista B. Scott (Brandon Sessoms) sued BET Networks and Viacom for $2.5 million, claiming they made him “take off his heels” and wrongfully fired him for wearing women’s clothes at a Hollywood show.
     In his lawsuit in Superior Court, Sessoms, 32, claims he accepted a job as a correspondent for the 2013 BET awards pre-show after a dinner meeting with “good friend” Mariah Carey, and BET (Black Entertainment Television) Networks president of programming and specials, Stephen Miller.
     Only BET, Viacom, and Does 1-20 are named as defendants.
     When he accepted the assignment, Sessoms/Scott says, he was never “told that there would be appearance restrictions based on gender expression.”
     Scott says that his “transgender persona and manner of appearance are well-known and obvious,” and that “BET and Viacom had full knowledge of B. Scott’s personality and style before hiring him as correspondent for the pre-show.”
     The “flowing black tunic and black pants” ensemble wore at the June 30 show was approved by show organizers before he set foot onstage, Scott says.
     Nevertheless, “After his first segment, B. Scott was literally yanked backstage and told that he ‘wasn’t acceptable,'” the complaint states. “B. Scott was told to mute the makeup, pull back his hair and he was forced to remove his clothing and take off his heels; thereby completely changing his gender identity and expression. They forced him to change into solely men’s clothing, different from the androgynous style of dress he’s used to, which he was uncomfortable with. BET and Viacom made him feel less than his colleagues and made him feel that something was wrong with him as a person.”
     BET Networks handed off his duties to singer and co-host Adrienne Bailon, before “realizing the error of the situation,” and allowing him to co-host the “very end of the show in a diminished capacity,” in men’s clothes, Scott says in the complaint.
     But the damage to his “public persona and reputation” was already done, Scott say in the lawsuit.
     Scott claims the defendants did not pay him for his work, and that he “was clearly mistreated on account of his gender identity and sexual orientation by someone in BET’s management or a high-level producer.”
     “No other correspondent was restricted in their hair, makeup, clothing, or footwear at any time during the pre-show or BET awards. BET has had hordes of females ‘twerking’ in mini skirts, spangly bras and other red carpet/stage wear, without incident,” the complaint states.
     Scott claims that BET Networks has been criticized previously for “blatant sexism and anti-intellectualism and further intentionally promoting anti-black stereotypes.”
     He cites a statement BET Networks made in response to the wardrobe change, after talks with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
     “‘(T)he incident was a singular one with a series of unfortunate miscommunications from both parties. We regret any unintentional offense to B. Scott and anyone within the LGBT community and we seek to embrace all gender expressions,'” BET said, according to the complaint.
     In an open letter on his website, lovebscott.com, Scott said he wants to put “this incident behind me and move on with my life.”
     “What happened to me was not a ‘miscommunication’ nor was it ‘unintentional’. It was wrong. I have been vehemently trying to come to a resolution with BET and Viacom behind the scenes. After a few weeks of back and forth dialogue with no foreseeable resolution, I have filed a lawsuit against BET and its parent company Viacom for discrimination on the basis of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation,” Scott wrote.
     He seeks $2.5 million in damages for discrimination, violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, breach of contract, wrongful termination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
     He is represented by Waukeen McCoy of San Francisco.
     “Any form of discrimination is wrong and has no place in the work environment, in corporate America or in Hollywood,” McCoy said in a statement.
     BET Networks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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