Who is Jason Lee, the podcaster running for city council in California? He founded Rihanna-approved site Hollywood Unlocked and interviewed Cardi B – but why did he distance himself from Kanye West?

The California native, 46, first came to attention on the reality TV series Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood, which he appeared on for three seasons. In an April 2023 interview with The Pivot podcast, Lee said, “Love and Hip Hop wasn’t the door I wanted to [enter]; it was just the only door that opened to me.” He went on to become a recurring cast member on Nick Cannon’s improv series, Wild ‘n Out.

The roots of Jason Lee’s Hollywood Unlocked

Jason Lee and Rihanna in December 2023. Photo: @theonlyjasonlee/Instagram

In 2015, Lee launched his entertainment site, Hollywood Unlocked. In January 2023, he raised US$1.7 million in seed capital, bringing the company’s valuation to US$50 million. PR Newswire has described it as “on a mission to create spaces for Black voices”. Variety reports that it is considered “one of the nation’s leading Black-owned media and entertainment brands” – having secured tell-all interviews with the likes of Cardi B, Tiffany Haddish and Ye (formerly Kanye West).

Forbes states that the site has “undeniable worldwide reach and cultural influence”, with Rihanna famously saying, “If I want to speak to my people, I come to Hollywood Unlocked.”

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Jason Lee’s roller-coaster ride with Ye

After a podcast interview with Ye in early 2022, Lee told Variety that it was clear the two shared an “aligned vision”. Per the publication, Lee was in touch with Ye about the launch of his album Donda 2, and was instrumental in linking Ye with PR firm DKC. Lee was later named head of media and partnerships for Ye.
Less than a year into the job though, Lee quit to focus on launching his own talk show. Per US media, two weeks after he left the position, Ye controversially wore matching White Lives Matter shirts with conservative political commentator Candace Owens. “I love Ye as a person, and I support free speech. But this is gaslighting Black people and empowering white supremacy. Not sure if he has any friends left to tell him, but this is utterly disappointing,” Lee wrote on Instagram.
Jason Lee in a post shared in February 2024. Photo: @theonlyjasonlee/Instagram
Lee has since been vocal in his opinion of Ye, commenting on the rapper’s antisemitic remarks when Ye said, among other things, that he sees “good things about Hitler”. Lee told Complex that he wanted Ye to take responsibility for the hurt caused by his comments. “What he said about the Jewish community was almost embarrassing because we’re asking one community to politic their pain over ours,” he said. “Slavery was real, it wasn’t a choice. And the Holocaust was a real thing that caused a lot of pain.”

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Jason Lee’s traumatic childhood

In an interview on VladTV, Lee opened up about his childhood, detailing how his mother battled addiction, leading to him being placed in foster care. He also spoke about how his brother Rodney was murdered in front of him. In 1997, Lee was having a going-away party at a bowling alley after being inspired to move to LA by a meeting with Queen Latifah. He was just leaving the party when a woman being carried out randomly shot at the crowd, killing Rodney.

Jason Lee’s new career in politics

Jason Lee in a March 2024 post thanking supporters of his political campaign. Photo: @theonlyjasonlee/Instagram

Lee began his political career this year, returning to his hometown of Stockton, California, and filing to enter the District 6 council race. Although critics quickly pointed out his celebrity culture background and lack of experience, he led the polls. He posted to his Instagram account in March: “As of today, we’ve come out on top, leading the others at 40.2 per cent! We ran a very smart campaign and had some of the best volunteers.”

This means that Lee will face off against current council member Kimberly Warmsley in the November elections, per The Stockton Record.


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