This Is What Happened Between Matt Rife And Zendaya Back In 2015, And Why It Is Circulating Now

“You’re mixed, I wanna be Black, let’s make a lifestyle movie,” Matt said to Zendaya before grabbing her face.

Comic Matt Rife has been facing backlash this week following the release of his Netflix special, Natural Selection, which opens with a problematic joke about domestic violence.

Matt Rife onstage

In the special, Matt takes aim at “ratchet” Baltimore before launching into a bit about being served by a hostess with a “black eye” when in the city.

Matt Rife on the red carpet

He says: “My boy, who I was with, was like, 'Yeah, I feel bad for her, man, I feel like they should put her in the kitchen or something where nobody has to see her face.' And I was like, 'Yeah, but I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn't have that black eye.’”

Matt Rife onstage

This routine leads into an attack on “crystal girls,” which starts with Matt making the joke that the woman with the black eye “should have had her protection crystals” on her.

Closeup of Matt Rife

The misguided gags are particularly upsetting coming from Matt because he actually got his big break after building a majority women fandom via TikTok. On the app, many of his most viral videos show the star doing crowd work where he flirts with the audience.

TikTok @matt_rife / Via

In spite of this, Matt appears to have a chip on his shoulder about being favored by women, and he even told Variety that his Netflix special was “way more for guys” as he insisted that men also make up a large part of his audience.

Matt Rife performing in front of a packed venue

“Despite what you think about me online, I don’t pander my career to women,” he reiterated in the interview.

Closeup of Matt Rife

But Matt’s strange choice to try and appeal to men more by mocking domestic violence against women hasn’t landed well, and he has been called out across social media for trying to “prove himself” through “misogyny” and “pandering to frat bros.”

Twitter @Cooperstreaming / Via Twitter: @Cooperstreaming

Twitter @Cheryl_Swore / Via Twitter: @Cheryl_Swore

His response to the backlash only fueled the fire, with Matt seemingly determined to look nonchalant amid the scrutiny as he posted a link to his “official apology” on his Instagram story on Monday.

Screenshot from Matt Rife's Instagram story

The link led to a medical shop website’s page for “special needs helmets,” and Matt was called out for “using ableism” in an apparent bid to seem “edgy.”

"Special Needs Helmets"

And as the response against Matt has evolved online, many are only just realizing that he is the same comic who exhibited “trash” behavior toward Zendaya way back in 2015.

Matt Rife much earlier in his career

In case you didn’t know, Matt used to appear on the MTV show Wild ’N Out, and in one episode, he was challenged to make Zendaya spit out the water that she was holding in her mouth by making her laugh in order for his team to score a point.

Zendaya holding water in her mouth

Zendaya was 18 years old and best known for being a Disney Channel star at the time, and she did not seem fazed by Matt’s comedic attempts.

Matt thinking of ways to make Zendaya laugh

“Hey Zendaya, I’m Nick Cannon,” Matt began, before deciding: “Nah, fuck that, I’m Matt motherfucking Rife, alright!”

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MTV / Via

Approaching the star as she sat in her chair, he continued: “You’re mixed, I wanna be Black, let’s make a lifestyle movie.”

Matt Rife on "Wild 'N Out"

And when Zendaya didn’t respond, Matt grabbed her chin and shouted: “Spit that water out so I can get your number please!”

Closeup of Matt Rife and Zendaya on "Wild 'N Out"

The moment that he touched her, Zendaya’s teammates launched to her defense, with one shouting: “Don’t be touching her like that, man!”

Screenshot from "Wild 'N Out"

Zendaya also showed her disapproval by wagging her finger at Matt to deny his advances. But Matt doubled down, saying in response: “I didn’t touch her — she can handle herself!”

Closeup of Zendaya

But even Matt’s own teammates knew that he went too far, with one saying in a confessional afterwards: “That was definitely a bomb, not only a bomb for the audience but everybody on the cast was like: ‘Woah, chill man.’”

tim chantarangsu in a confessional

“Matt had already buried himself,” one more added.

Screenshot from "Wild 'N Out"

Neither Matt nor Zendaya have ever publicly acknowledged the moment, but fans have been left horrified after it resurfaced online on Monday.

A closeup of Zendaya

“Had I known matt rife was the same guy on wild n out that touched zendaya’s face, I would’ve instantly hated him,” one person tweeted. Another wrote: “totally forgot matt rife was on wild 'n out and made the weird comments to zendaya. it's all starting to make sense now.”

Twitter @lwtdayaaa / Via Twitter: @lwtdayaaa

Twitter @Kirith0tt / Via Twitter: @Kirith0tt

“Known Matt Rife was trash since he touched Zendaya’s face on Wild ‘N Out without her consent,” one more added. Somebody else said: "i knew matt rife was a red flag when he was on wild and out with zendaya."

Twitter @liviee_g / Via Twitter: @liviee_g

Matt has not commented on any of the latest backlash, and BuzzFeed has contacted his rep for comment.

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