(Photo: Phil McCarten/PictureGroup)
Leslie “Big Lez” Segar is no stranger to BET.
“Big Lez,” along with Joe Clair, held it down on Rap City during the show’s heyday in the mid-'90s. The TV host/radio DJ/choreographer/personal trainer (the woman wears many hats) returns to BET as one of the three judges of Lens on Talent Season 3.
“Big Lez” chatted with BET.com about whether we will ever see Rap City on BET again and gave us her fondest Michael Jackson memory.
What are you up to these days?
I feel like I have 10 jobs. I still do radio. I still do a little choreography, but not as much. I have kind of stepped into more fitness. Everyone knows me from that, and my degree is in sports physiology. I still do a lot of boot camps and I’ve always kept my clientele, whether they are artists or regular consumers. I do two international radio shows that are sponsored by Sprite and Coke called the Sprite Street Mix and the Coca-Cola Open Happiness Mixshow. We do a lot with the NBA, and it’s been really beautiful and hugely successful. I’m really trying to get another syndicated show here in the States.... Bump someone out of the airwaves, hop on, and make some stuff happen.
As someone who has worn multiple hats in the industry, which hat do you prefer wearing the most?
I love doing TV more than anything. I actually miss it. I actually had a couple of opportunities, but I’m not on this reality bandwagon. That’s not my thing. Conceptually it has to really fit right...that my mama could look me in the face the next day and say, "She didn’t embarrass us, thank you, Jesus." It has to be where I’m in a position like a Carson Daly and Ryan Seacrest, where I’m the executive producer or a producer credit, and I have the ability to bring other projects to the network. Not just where I’m standing there, holding the mic, like many years ago. I’ve been in the business too long and it’s time to definitely graduate.
Do you think we will ever see Rap City again on BET?
Only if me and Joe Clair come back! That’s the only time Rap City will ever have another life like it did. And they would have to really take it out on location, like the way it was. How many times do you get to see as we go down to Texas and hang out with Scarface on his ranch, going to Chicago and really chilling with Common and Twista? And come on, nobody gives you Luke in his all Lukeness like Rap City did. We got to really get in touch with these artists and be on their territory. My first low-rider ride was with WC. He popped my low-rider cherry on camera, on the show. Put them in the real element and all the real rawness comes out. I hope BET will bring it back to life. Me and Joe are ready!
Do you think there’s a way to have Rap City without damaging the network’s new image?
I don’t think it would damage it. Hip hop is obviously here to stay. They of course found a way to infuse it with 106 & Park. Rap City was not a degrading show. Hip hop is not degrading in that sense, or at least the way people think it is. I think they can definitely bring it back and keep it up with the demographic. They have a wide range of demographics. People who grew up on EPMDs and Whodinis, all the way through to the Lil Waynes and so forth. There are stories to be told, even with the artists right now in hip hop that are just one-hit wonders. There’s no staying power in regards to the music, and I think meshing the new school with the old school could be a way to bridge the gap.
If you had to pick one, what’s your favorite music video that you worked on as a choreographer?
You’re kidding me with just picking one. The obvious one would be “Remember The Time” by Michael Jackson, because for me, that whole incident of how it came to me was miraculous and nothing but God. I found out about the audition on a Thursday. Was broke and begged my mother for a plane ticket on Friday. Flew out and the audition was Saturday morning. By like 6 p.m. that day, I was able to call my mom and say I booked a gig. I had never been on a studio lot—we shot at Universal Studios. It was three weeks worth of work, which meant we are really getting paid. Just the rehearsal process and really working with big directors like John Singleton.... It was like a Hollywood dream. And then to finally see Michael Jackson, come on. It doesn’t get any better than that. We didn’t get to rehearse with him every day, but the last two days when he came in to show us the routine, our routine didn’t look like that. His was on some really funky fly, really fresh, like, “Oh, we need to go back and fix this in order to step up to his game.” Just working with him was great. It was really wonderful.
Do you have a memory that stands out of working with Michael on set?
Well, Bubbles was still around at the time. I think what’s really funny is that people don’t know the politics about it. We had to sign paperwork about two inches thick. Don’t talk to him, don’t look at him, whatever the case is. Mike comes in and he’s like pookie from around the way. He might talk a little softer, but he was cursing, he was cracking jokes. You were kind of over the thrill after the first five minutes because you’re like he bleeds the same color we do and he’s really eager to have real people around him instead of all these "yes" men. I think that was the most eye-opening experience with him.
What advice would you give to aspiring dancers?
They need to keep their ass in class. They need to be versatile in everything. I don’t care if you hate the genre: tap, ballroom, jazz, African, whatever it is. Step your game up. Remember that there’s always someone on your heels that is better than you or trying to get to the spot that you’re at. I think everyday you should do something toward your goal. Whether it’s making a phone call or resume, shooting another reel, learning a new trick. Whatever it is, you have to do something new every day to step up your game.
What was your inspiration in doing Lens on Talent?
I was happy to get the phone call after seeing the trailer. I was like, “Oh, another dance show. These are my people!” It’s great to come back home. Obviously I had a life before Rap City, but it was still a BET life for me because nobody was else was showing the videos that I was dancing in and choreographing. For me to be able to come back home to the network is always a beautiful thing.