Lee, who grew up in Stockton, California, is best known as a stylized figure in the hip-hop media world. Before founding Hollywood Unlocked, he worked for Queen Latifah in the 1990s and then appeared on the second season of the VH1 reality show. Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood. He’s spread big celebrity news in the past, like the cheating scandal of Khloe Kardashian, Jordyn Woods, and Tristan Thompson, and he’s also done exclusive interviews with stars like Kanye West and Kellys. Over the years, Lee has built and cemented his image and brand as a celebrity gossip insider in Los Angeles with the launch of his own podcast, YouTube channel, and popular shows on iHeartRadio and Fox Soul.
Lee refused to explain his outlet’s process to verify the news they publish, but reiterated that they don’t publish stories “from people we don’t know and trust.”
“We were never gossiping,” he said, also refuting that the Queen’s story might have been a ploy to get attention and advertise dollars. People were so used to attacking him and denigrating him, he shrugged his shoulders.
When asked why he thought no one else at the wedding had leaked the Queen’s death, Lee speculated that it was because they “maybe they don’t want to follow through on what I’m up to”.
“But I was built for it, so…” I retreated. “It’s embarrassing that no one responds.”
Deploying what may be one of the world’s largest scoops is a bit of my usual wheelhouse. A current employee told BuzzFeed News that they discovered the story “at the same time the world knew it,” and the junior staff was still clueless about its developments Tuesday night. The night the story went live, Lee was broadcasting live from Kanye West Donda 2 A listening party in Miami, which quickly took over the Hollywood Unlocked platforms. Lee admitted that the reaction he received about the Queen’s story “was different”, but he wasn’t thinking about the seriousness of the news when it was reported – he was just doing the job.
“It was literally story breaking,” he said. “Our intentions are to be realistic, to be the first to report facts, and to trust our sources. In this case, that’s what we did. We don’t do clickbait stories. We don’t create gossip.”
Lee added since the original story was published, his team of nine have thrown their entirety into Hollywood Unlocked. He said he recently called someone “who had a connection with a head of state in another country to see if they could get confirmation.” They did not receive any calls.
BuzzFeed News reached out to Lee again Wednesday afternoon to ask if he was aware that Lanigan, the singer of the Stone Age queens, had died on Tuesday (he wasn’t), and if his source could have gotten it wrong.
He replied, “I don’t want to get a call every time there’s an update online.” “What I said earlier still stands: Until it’s undo, that’s the story.”
In the meantime, things on the boat are considered “cool”.
BuzzFeed News reporter Ellie Hall contributed to the report.