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Van Lathan on goals, newfound fame and shedding weight

DEDICATED: Van Lathan may have shot into the public eye when he confronted Kanye West, below left – but the TMZ staffer and podcast host also has a following after an incredible effort to lose weight and create a healthy lifestyle, which he now documents on Instagram for fans

VAN LATHAN came to global prominence when the clip of him checking Kanye West during the rapper’s now-infamous “slavery was a choice” rant went viral earlier this year – but who is the journalist and podcast host?

Like many, this writer was fascinated by Lathan’s temerity to challenge and present an alternate viewpoint to one of rap’s foremost protagonists. I wanted to know more about him.

You only have to have been following Lathan’s Instagram account since the Kanye moment to see that his popularity and appeal have grown.

Lathan was widely lauded for presenting a counter-view representative of the minority voice that doesn’t always get time to shine positively on platforms such as TMZ, where he works, – but putting the Kanye thing to one side, how was he handling his newfound fame?

“I’m embracing it,” he tells me.

“There have been some lessons learned. In terms of what I am about and what I would say I believe, there is really nothing to do differently. “There hasn’t been a perspective change, I have the same mind and the same opinions that I had formed over years and years of input, life experience and reading.

“But what has changed is some of the other little things, like the way that people react to jokes that I might make or things that I found funny before anyone was paying attention that I maybe could have got away with… but now you put up a joke on Instagram and people are like, ‘Do you endorse that?’.

“So, I think that I have to be a little bit more mindful of not what my opinions are or what my stances are, but what people are looking to me for and about how they see me.”

Finding the right balance is a process Lathan says is easier when he respects where he is in his career right now.

He doesn’t temper who he is to the extent that he spouts anything that is remotely inauthentic – keeping it truthful is wired in his DNA.

But where he is right now is only part of the Lathan story. Those who follow the American will be aware of his continued efforts to stay healthy, having at one point weighed 365 pounds.

For anyone looking to shed some weight in the new year, Lathan’s testimony is an inspiring one. Being busy wasn’t an excuse.

“For me, it’s not about finding the balance, it’s a bout creating the balance,” Lathan explains.

“People leave it up to life situations to prioritise the things that are important to them. They say, ‘If I lived closer to work then I can go to the gym a little bit more’. Or, ‘if I’m single and I don’t have kids to feed and stuff like that, then I can control my diet a little bit better’.

“For me, I know what my predisposition is genetically. I know that I am big-boned guy, that I can swell up, that I can get big and so part of me maintaining the lifestyle I want to have is carving out ways to prioritise my physical fitness.

“For me, none of what has happened for me or to me would have happened if I hadn’t taken that step. I know that.”

He says there will never be a point in is life when he is not focusing on his fitness, health and wellbeing, he’ll ‘never let that slide’.

As well as the physical benefits, mentally the fitness drive reinforced his self-belief.

He enthused: “The first thing it did was show me that there is nothing that I can’t accomplish if I actually take the steps to do it.”


SERIAL RANTER: Kanye West

He added: “It showed me that if I am dedicated to something, I can put in the time, day in and day out, to make it happen for myself. That’s hard.

“Number two, it’s exercise. I had an anxiety disorder, I had all types of things going on with my health, I had high blood pressure – and when you’re running or playing basketball you get to be outside of your mind and your body will deal with those things.”

With his health being treated as no joke, Lathan is also very serious about his work, which many see as integral for the culture. But what does doing it ‘for the culture’ mean to him?

“When you do something for the culture it’s really about doing something not just for yourself but for the preservation of ideas that you believe make this world a jazzier, spicier, more flavourful and better place to live,” says Lathan.

“I’m not a guardian of it, I am a willing participant. I think everyone should guard things that give them life.

“It’s not just incumbent upon people that have a voice or reach on social media or a media platform to be the stimulus of the things that they care about, it’s something that everyone should do.”

Lathan’s observation of cultures all over the world taking ‘great pride in defining who they are to people’ is probably one of the reasons his podcast, The Red Pill, is flourishing.

The success is a credit to his indelible style on a project he admits he only took on to see if he was able to execute it at a high standard.

“The Red Pill, for me, was another one of those things I wanted to do just to see if I could.

"It was a necessary step in my career so that I knew that I could be the anchor on something that people enjoyed. I didn’t think that I couldn’t do it but I just wanted to make sure,” he said.

On its growing audience, he added: “The popularity hasn’t really surprised me just because I think people always want to know what people they admire really think about things.”

He might want to count himself among the people who others want to know about. Lathan’s ambition is attracting the type of opportunities that will almost certainly propel his stock. And while he’s very happy at TMZ, where does he see himself in a decade’s time?

“At some place I created,” he responds without hesitancy.

“Somewhere where the bottom line is a sharing of ideas that I have a larger hand in, that I can manage. Not just so I can force my ideas on people, but just so I can reflect conversations in the way that I think that it should be reflected.”

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