A composer, performer, and artist with a superstar sibling is opening up about his time on a reality show.
M Lamar, the twin brother of Laverne Cox, made waves on television as X on ABC’s Claim to Fame before his recent elimination.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Claim To Fame, hosted by Kevin and Frankie Jonas, centers around a group of contestants with celebrity relatives who compete for a $100,000 prize. The competitors are challenged to keep their famous relatives a secret while also trying to guess who their co-stars’ family members are, all while sequestered in a house together with no access to clue-aiding Internet and social media.
For M Lamar his time came to a close when his costar correctly guessed his relation to Cox but not before his fun-loving spirit, trademark all-black, all-goth aesthetic, and quirks including naked exercising sparked chatter online.
Below Lamar chats with BOSSIP about his time in the Claim To Fame house, his fellow contestants, and THAT moving speech he made about his extraordinary Emmy-nominated twin.
Let’s talk about “Claim To Fame”, it’s all about celebrity relatives stepping out of their family members’ shadows. What made you want to join this experience and really open yourself up to the world?
I don’t think I really wanted to. Initially, I was like, this is a terrible idea, this has nothing to do with me in my life. Laverne got mega famous when we were like about 40 years old and I had a whole life going, so I tried to just proceed with my life. The most extraordinary thing happened the other day, I was playing a show in Brooklyn, and I was hanging out with a friend I hadn’t seen in years that I’ve known since 2010. And, and I said, ‘Oh, yeah I’m doing this thing and I can’t really talk about it because I’m related to someone who’s really famous.’ And they were like, ‘Oh, you’re related to someone really famous?!’ I just loved that this person who’s known me forever has no idea that my sister is Laverne Cox. And for me, that’s been a really important thing. And part of me was worried that like this would ruin it, the separate life I have been able to make for myself. You don’t want people just in your life because you’re connected to someone famous. You want people to be there because they love you and they think you’re great and interesting and funny or charming or loving, or kind. There are still a lot of people in my life who have no idea who Laverne Cox is because they don’t watch the kind of shows she’s on or they’re not caught up in celebrity culture. The people that I know and hang out with, don’t really care about celebrity culture, so I’ve been sort of privileged in that sense. And so I was skeptical about doing this but the money was very appealing. I do well in my career but everyone could have a little more money and I thought, it would be hilarious and fun just to be myself on national television. So yeah, I didn’t think it was a good idea and I am still not sure it was a great idea, but it was a fun experience. I really enjoyed it. One of the things that is interesting about these shows is getting all of these different kinds of people under one roof and seeing what happens. I think that think a lot of people might be surprised to know that me, Brittany [Favre-Mallion ] and Logan [Crosby] love each other. They are both deep, loving people.
What was it like living in that house with all these different people with all these different personalities?
I loved it. It was incredible, I really enjoyed being myself. I think I’m surprising because Brittany even told me that she didn’t suspect that I would be this loving, kind, caring person at first sight. I think when you first look at me, you’re like, ‘Well, what kind of demonic thing is with this Negro?’ So I love being completely myself aesthetically, it’s like very personal to me. I think all human beings we can all learn about what it means to be human in a way where we can’t judge anyone based on how they look on the outside. Whether that’s race or gender, we have to probe and get to know people. So I loved getting to know everyone. I loved being loving to everyone and if I wasn’t loving, I tried to correct that and apologized when it wasn’t the case. For me, it was also a test of my mental health. You know you’re under 24-hour surveillance, being filmed and watched all at all times. A year ago when I first asked I was like, ‘there’s no way I could do it.’ I don’t know if I can mentally hold up but I’ve been in therapy for a very long time working on myself and it was exciting to see how well I could hold up. I thought it was really beyond the challenge of the game. I tried to win the game but it was [also] the challenge of will we crack under these circumstances? I was really happy that I didn’t and remained mentally solid and sound.
You mentioned that people don’t really realize that you and your sister are twins, but for me, I saw the lips and I knew exactly who you were related to. Going into this, you had no worries that someone would immediately put two and two together?
I think that’s why I said to the casting people when they were first talking about it was, ‘Well, you know, we’re twins, right?! That was my first question; how will I not be eliminated in the first episode? Are you just setting me up for failure? I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did. Not that I don’t think I was playing the game very well. I think I was being strategic and smart and trying to win every challenge. But come on, it’s like Louise [Biles]. Louis looks exactly like Simone [Biles] so I thought like the only chance I have to survive is that maybe they’ll pick Louise first. I honestly I thought Louise was related to Sloane Stephens but she looks even more like Simone.
So with the whole twin thing I thought it was maybe a setup, I thought, ‘well, they have to have someone eliminated first.’ It was that kind of thing.
On social media, I noticed that people had some very wild guesses about who your celebrity relative might have been. Did you see any guesses that stood out?
I did but I tried mostly not to pay attention because I also knew there would probably be a lot of peculiar things that people would say that I didn’t need to know.
But I did see Lenny Kravitz, Prince…some of the people in the house confessed that they thought I was related to Prince but I”m like six feet tall and maybe other people in this family are tall? I don’t know. He’s gorgeous and he’s a genius. So I mean, I’ll take that part; the genius part and the sexy. If I I can even be a 10th as sexy as Prince, I’ll take it. And of course, Lenny Kravitz is incredibly sexy, I’ll take that all day. I embrace all that. I saw someone say Will Smith, and that’s less interesting to me for multiple reasons. But the Lenny Kravitz and the Prince thing, I play music and I’m committed to certain kind of style and aesthetic that they both embody. So yeah, that was fun.
When you were eliminated you made a moving speech about your sister and said that you’ve never really spoken about her. Why was now a good time to open up about all the love and admiration you have for Laverne?
It should be said that we talk if not every day, every other day or we text every day. We’re incredibly close and we need each other. Because I was sequestered for the show, the first thing that happened when I got my phone, was I called my boyfriend who I’ve been dating for 18 years and I called Laverne. And she was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I’ve been out of touch. I’ve missed you so much, not being able to text you or call you!’ I think the word she used is traumatizing, so that was moving. It goes back to this thing I said before, I was 40 years old before she broke through and became this huge star. We never had the same friends, I historically never really liked her friends. So I thought, how can I continue with my life as it’s been going without the monster of the fame thing? All my friends have been my close friends since before she was famous, I don’t have new close friends. I don’t want people in my life who want to be around because I have a famous, famous sibling. So for me, I’ve never spoken about her just to kind of try to keep a separation from the fame, not from her. I have a deep profound love for her, but just from the fame thing and the obnoxiousness that comes from people who just want to be near for some strange reason. It makes people insane and I didn’t want that insanity really affecting my life. So I’ve never spoken about it really publicly. I still didn’t post the show on my social media because I love the fact that people don’t know and I can just sort of go on with my life, there’s a whole section of my life that doesn’t engage with all that and I want to keep that part separate.
I’ve never gotten the chance to say how much I think she’s extraordinary, how much I admire her as a human being. I think that it’s a radical thing to be seen loving someone who’s been deemed unlovable and I think the trans people have been dubbed unlovable, and gay people or whoever, in society at large. I think at this cultural moment, this political moment, I just wanted to love on my sister who is trans but beyond that, she’s s an extraordinary human being. She’s so generous with her time, she doe so much behind the scenes with other trans people. She talks to every Black trans woman, she’s friends with all of them, They come to her for council, and she reaches out to them, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s not some kind of PR thing, she is serious about opening a door and leaving it open and ushering in other trans people. Even with her own productions, she’s hired all these trans people, like her makeup artist was a transwoman who was not in the union and Laverne fought to get her in the union and even paid her initial union dues. I don’t think she’s given enough credit for opening up all these doors for all of the trans people. I think she’s responsible for so many cultural shifts that I think are really important. I think she’s created a lot of space for a lot of people. I can’t imagine “Pose” existing before my sister hit the scene. And I think that’s what’s been so important for me, all the trans women on that show, and all the trans people and queer people who’ve been watching that show that are being inspired by it. [Even] “Legendary”, the connection there, that’s really, really, really important. And I’ve always felt like I’m a historian around my sister, at least in terms of her importance to the culture in general. I think it’s not an accident that it was a Black woman who was the first to sort of break through all of these things, because of the history of what we have been through as Black people in this country. I mean that in the way that we’ve been able to stand up with dignity and love, and a certain kind of grandness.