Sports

The Sadness of Kevin Samuels’ Life and Death

Kevin Samuels came to us the way that most viruses do; without warning.

One day you’re fine, and the next morning, you’re completely engulfed by it and have no choice but to ride it out.

For those of you who are inoculated, just know that Samuels was a self-proclaimed relationship guru who started his own YouTube channel in 2014. He hosted a call-in show in which he offered advice, but the advice was often harsh criticism of the caller’s appearance, or worse.

He went viral in 2020 when a female caller told him she was no longer interested in dating below her pay grade. She said she was a business owner and noted that men who weren’t earning at her level or above tended to want to get into her business (both figuratively and literally).

Samuels’ advice to the woman was that her desire to attract a man above her social status was a pipe dream, or, as he put it: “Men who make six figures don’t want mid-30s baby mamas.”

He also noted that average-looking women (the caller had rated herself a five on a scale of 1–10) didn’t tend to attract high-earning men. Samuels exclaimed that he was giving her a dose of reality.

As the caller tried to explain her position, Samuels interrupted her to note: “You can call it what you want to, but women like you die alone. Straight up. Because you think you are better than the men you qualify for.”

He also told the woman, who had a baby but had never married the child’s father, that she was a used vehicle wanting brand-new 2021 prices.

On Thursday, rumors began swirling that the 57-year-old Samuels had died. For almost a day, no reputable news source would post news of his death. The New York Times waited until Saturday before writing up a story that the social media celebrity and former stylist, “who built his following on an image of plain-spoken, hyper masculine authority, usually wearing a finely tailored suit,” had died.

All of it added to the sadness of Kevin Samuels’ life.

There is no shortage of men who believe, much like Samuels, that single Black women over 35, are, as Samuels called them, “leftovers.” You can walk into any place where time stands still — a barbershop, boxing gym, Republican convention, or the home of a Howard Stern listener — and find men with beliefs much like Samuels’. There was nothing shiny about Samuels’ archaic thoughts, nothing new to see, nothing prophetic or profound. Yet, there are men — many of whom will now be forced to listen to Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks — who believe, like Samuels, that derogatory, hurtful, spiteful and hate-filled criticism dressed up as “straight talk” is keeping it real.

Samuels prided himself in taking Black women and some Black men to task. He was brash and brutal, even when the conversation didn’t call for it.

Once, a man called in to his show and noted that he was a phlebotomist. Samuels grew bored with the caller and told him, “Get the fuck off my phone bitch. Go take blood, boy.” He told a single mom that she was being stingy with sex with her “high-value man” after she’d already given up her womb before she’d gotten a ring. And I’m paraphrasing.

I must note that I didn’t know Kevin Samuels the person, and there have been several YouTube videos eulogizing him now that he is gone, but I have trouble believing that the highly stylized Samuels, whose soundbites often made it to such studious academic sites such as WorldStar and Media Take Out, was the true man. I want to believe that Samuels is a creation whose origin story starts with a kind fellow who, much like many men before him, was hurt by someone and became the villain. Isn’t this every villain’s origin story?

Think about this: He was always immaculately dressed, yet most of his YouTube footage appears to be shot in a room in his home. This means that he would put on a full suit and tie to sit in a room in his home to talk to viewers.

For Samuels, the suit was a lot like the Joker’s makeup. Most of his callers were just regular folks, wearing regular clothes, but Samuels would chide them and take them to task while suited and booted. It’s a lot easier to look down on people when you’re dressed to the nines. The suit added to Samuels’ asshole persona. It didn’t make him an asshole any more than big church hats make church women gossip, but it aids in the process, like a cloak or a dagger.

Add up all the things that make a knuckle-dragging, barbaric, hypermasculine man, and you would have Kevin Samuels. And much like villains before him, there is no love for the destruction he caused and no redeeming qualities in his death. He picked up his mantle and used it to beat people over the head under the guise of therapy. He was a corner store preacher without a good word, or a basketball dad filled with hate and no kid to cheer on. He was whatever happens to the unloved. He was an abandoned dog commercial — you know, the one that almost makes you cry — he was that one.

I never thought Samuels’ commentary was worth noting, but I did think two things the last time I saw one of his viral clips. The first was: He was the walking meme of “Tell me you hate Black women without saying you hate Black women,” except he was actually saying it! And, “Who hurt you?”

You don’t just naturally have that much hate in your heart; you aren’t born with that kind of hate. That hate is cultivated over time. It takes run-ins with the law in which you are not a fault and countless rejections. You have to season that kind of hate and set it in the fridge for 48 hours so that it really seeps in.

It takes a special kind of hate to tell a woman that she’s the size of Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders.

“You’re a running back’s size. Don’t come in here talking about what men got to accept when they talking to somebody who can run out the power I.” Before the woman could interject, Samuels punctuated his football analogy by yelling, “Hut. Hut.”

But the most perplexing, head-scratching aspect of Samuels’ infamy has to be his audience. Not that he has followers — people have always loved polarizing figures; just look at Donald Trump — but why did Black women and men keep calling this suited man who was presumably hosting a YouTube show from his house, looking for advice while knowing that they were opening themselves up to a complete bashing? I’m not kink-shaming, but that’s a different kind of masochism that I’m not familiar with.

So a Black man spouting shameful statements has died, and most Black women don’t care. Nor should they. Samuels found an open surfboard in the bash-Black-women ocean and rode the wave. His misogynist talking points and his fatphobic, ageist, caveman-esque sound bites were oppressive, simplistic and unabashedly cruel, and his death doesn’t make him a martyr or noble. It doesn’t erase the damage he’s done. It doesn’t un-scorch the Earth he’s inflamed.

That hasn’t stopped some Black men from immortalizing his teachings. But those men are mulish and still believe that Dr. Umar is going to open a school. So that’s on them.

When I was a boy, I used to be afraid of villains. And then I got older and realized that all of it, all of the hate-filled monologues, all of the insults, destruction and scarring could be attributed to a deficiency in one vitamin all of us need: love.

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