Van Lathan, a former reporter and media personality on TMZ, has garnered fame and notoriety for his hot takes on pop culture, entertainment and political issues. While employed at the famous media outlet, the Baton Rouge native lit up the newsroom with his unfiltered views and direct candor. In 2019, he famously stood up to Kanye West after the rapper boldly claimed “slavery was choice.”
Since exiting the company, Lathan has become a prominent voice in the media world. Here’s everything we know about the daring reporter’s career.
Who is Van Lathan
Van Lathan is a podcaster and media personality that isn’t afraid to give his honest take on the state of the world. Interestingly, Lathan never had his eyes set on being in the media industry. During an interview with ALL THE SMOKE in 2022, the 42-year-old star revealed that he had no idea what TMZ was before he joined the company.
“I really did not know what TMZ was when I got there. My girl be in there watching the celebrity news, but I never cared about it, I never looked down on it, but I never cared about it,” he said. “I would look at the celebrity news shows, and I would be like hey, they’re covering the same five to ten stories on every show. Me and her would argue because she would go in there and watch E-News, and Extra. They would talk about the same s***,” Lathan joked.
Before he landed a job at TMZ, Lathan was struggling to make ends meet. He was receiving unemployment and searching for the next big opportunity. His employment status changed after he unknowingly participated in a TV commercial.
“I was asked to come out to Van Nuys to use all these products and when I got to this Razor, a guy jumped out and said, ‘You ready for the Guillette Pros Fusion Challenge!?’ So, I had to put down on the unemployment that I did a commercial and it readjust my employment to $75 a week. I’m f***** and now I got to go get a job.”
Thankfully, it wasn’t long before Lathan was back in the workforce. In 2011, the star landed his first job at TMZ as a tour guide at the age of 31.
“I didn’t know what the show was and I did not understand the controversy,” Lathan admitted during his interview. “I also did not get the cultural problems that were there until I was a television mainstay.”
Lathan quickly climbed up the ranks at the media outlet and became popular for his no holds barred approach to reporting and his opinionated views.
Van Lathan Vs. Kanye West
In 2018, Van Lathan gave Kanye West a dose of his own medicine during a TMZ Live interview. West sent the room into shock when he said “slavery was a choice” during a heated conversation on race.
After offering his controversial stance, West asked the newsroom:
“Do you feel like I’m thinking free and feeling free,” to which Lathan replied:
“I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything. I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought.”
Lathan noted that there were “real-world” and “real-life consequences” behind Kanye’s point of view on slavery.
“While you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives,” Lathan said. “We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said, for our people, was a choice.”
“Frankly, I’m disappointed, I’m appalled and, brother, I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something, to me, that’s not real,” he concluded.
After Lathan stood up to the Grammy-winning producer, people on social media applauded the media star for checking Kanye about his disrespectful remark.
On an “emergency” episode of his Red Pill podcast, Lathan said he “lost all respect for” the rapper following his TMZ interview.
Why did Van Lathan leave TMZ?
In 2019, Lathan was let go from the network after he allegedly put his hands around the neck of his co-worker Michael Babcock during a dispute on live TV. During the show, Lathan and Babcock disagreed on the topic of Ellen Degeneres hanging out with George W. Bush.
Last year, Lathan sat down with VLAD TV to share more about the events that transpired before he was fired from the outlet. He said he wasn’t a fan of Bush’s “rebrand” following his turbulent presidency. After Hurricane Katrina, Lathan was angry with how the former president handled the devastation that occurred in his hometown of Louisiana. He claimed that Babcock and producers kept egging him on to talk more about Bush during the segment, but he didn’t want to because it was an emotional topic.
Eventually, he blew up at Babcock, but he claimed he never choked him. Lathan said he was trying to pull Babcock in by his shoulders to whisper something in his ear regarding the dispute. Unfortunately, after the incident went viral, TMZ gave him the boot.
But that didn’t stop the media titan.
Lathan had already been generating buzz with his Red Pill podcast, a show where he went under the hood to examine everything from art and police reform to racism and sex culture.
Garnering over 50,000 listeners per episode, the popular podcast served up “a weekly dose of truth” from Lathan and featured powerful celebrity interviews with stars like Taye Diggs and Ava Duvernay.
What is Van Lathan doing now?
Now, alongside his trusted co-host Rachel Lindsay, Lathan continues to break new ground with the Higher Learning podcast. The duo meets twice a week to dissect the biggest topics in Black culture, politics, and sports.
Lathan has also crossed over to the world of film. Last year, Van Lathan won an Academy Award. The multihyphenate was an executive producer for the Netflix film, Two Distant Strangers, which snagged an Oscar for the best short film. The film examines the deaths of Black Americans during encounters with police through the eyes of a character trapped in a time loop that keeps ending in his death.