‘Genitals on fire’ moment helped Neil deGrasse Tyson choose academic path

Neil deGrasse Tyson encountered the kind of decision a Black intellectual and a brother with only a street degree could reach in the same amount of time
Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson at the 2016 Primetime Creative Emmy Awards. (Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Kathy Hutchins)

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the renowned astrophysicist, has always stood out in intelligence. This trait was particularly noticeable during his student days when he brainstormed ways to earn money. Now 65, Tyson shared an amusing anecdote with TV host Kelly Clarkson, revealing that he once contemplated becoming a male stripper.

Tyson’s consideration of this unconventional career path ended abruptly after a visit to a strip club where he witnessed dancers wearing jockstraps lined with asbestos and soaked in lighter fluid, a necessary accessory for their performance to Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”

Reflecting on this experience, Tyson humorously admitted, “I’m embarrassed that only in that moment when I saw their genitals on fire did I say, ‘Maybe I should be a math tutor,'” eliciting a wave of laughter from the audience.

This moment marked a turning point in Tyson’s life. He went on to earn degrees from prestigious institutions like Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Texas. Since then, Tyson’s focus has been on the cosmic “balls of fire” in outer space, leaving behind any aspirations of a stripping career.

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