Friday Footnote: Jussie Smollett
This particular post is based on another Friday Footnote post that was published here last month during Black History Month. Jussie Smollett was featured during that feature and he’s the solo subject of this Footnote article. I personally enjoy the actor for his role on TV and for the excellent job that he does in representing the same gender loving performers who credit not only their race but also their sexuality in popular media. Click the title to reference the previous post: Friday Footnote: Hate and Shame.
Justin “Jussie” Smollett (selfie photo above) was born on June 21, 1982, in Santa Rosa, California. He’s biracial, his mother being African-American and his father is a white Jewish man. He’s one of six children and came out as same gender loving (gay) to his family when he was 19 years old; he’s currently age 36. He graduated from Paramus Catholic High School in Paramus, New Jersey.
His most notorious performing – acting – role thus far is on the TV series, Empire. He portrays the gay singing character, Jamal Lyons, on the show since 2014. He’s one of a very limited group of openly same gender loving actors to actually portray a gay character on television, for a total of five complete seasons.
Jussie publicly came out as gay on the Ellen DeGeneres afternoon TV show in March, 2015. The focus of his interview with Ellen was his being a gay man who is actually starring as a gay man on television and to his experience in doing so.
In 2007, Smollett pleaded “no contest” (neither guilty nor innocent) to providing false information to Los Angeles City police in a misdemeanor case in a “driving under the influence” traffic stop. He gave the police officers a false name. He also pleaded “no contest” to driving with a blood alcohol level higher than legally allowed and driving without a valid driver’s license. He was fined and sentenced to two years of probation.
In the gif. images above and below, Jussie appears with his boyfriend on television scenes from his TV series, “Empire.”
On January 22, 2019, Jussie Smollett received a letter at his Chicago studio address that threatened him for being both a Black and openly gay actor on the successful show, “Empire.” The letter warned him of an upcoming assault.
At the end of January, the openly gay actor was brutally attacked after leaving a Chicago, Illinois, Subway restaurant. Smollett, who plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on TV’s Empire series, had just left the eatery when he was assaulted by two men, described as white, who yelled homophobic and racial epithets (“faggot” and “nigger”) as they beat him.
Smollett had bleach poured over him and a rope noose tied around his neck. The rope noose is considered threatening as it symbolizes lynching – punishment by hanging without the benefit of a legal trial.
Smollett was treated for his injuries at a local Chicago hospital. The city’s police were summoned and made a report of the assault. The anti-gay and racial slurs used during the attack automatically categorized the violence as a hate crime.
His Court Appearance
“Empire actor Jussie Smollett gave detailed instructions to two Nigerian-born brothers who helped him stage a racist, anti-gay attack on himself, including giving them specific slurs to yell (“faggot” and “nigger”) telling them to shout “MAGA country” (make America great again) and pointing out a surveillance camera that he thought would record the beating.” a public prosecutor charged in a Chicago court on Thursday, February 21, 2019.
The Chicago Police Department said Smollett planned the hoax because he was unhappy with his salary on Empire and wanted to promote his career. Prior to the attack, the police claim, he also sent a letter that threatened him to the Chicago studio where the television show is filmed.
Smollett, who is personally both Black and gay, turned himself in on Thursday morning, February 21, 2019, to face accusations that he filed a false police report last month when he told authorities and the media that he was attacked in downtown Chicago by two masked “white” men who hurled anti-gay and racist slurs against him and looped a rope around his neck, police said.
The actor “took advantage of the pain and the anger of racism to promote his career” Superintendent Eddie Johnson of the Chicago Police Department said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”
The police reported that Jussie Smollett’s alleged plans for the surveillance camera were thwarted. They say it did not have an angle view of the beating.
At his first court appearance, a judge set Jussie’s bond at $100,000, meaning that he had to post $10,000 to be released. Smollett’s attorneys asked for him to be freed on his own recognizance, but the judge, who is also Black, rejected that idea and said that he was particularly bothered by the allegations involving the rope noose.
The actor, his attorneys and supporters (family) left the hearing without speaking to the media. One of the attorneys, Jack Prior, told the judge that Jussie “maintains these are outrageous allegations” and denies that they are true.
The FBI has been investigation the threatening letter. Police Superintendent Johnson would not say whether Smollett could face additional charges.
The companies that make the Empire series, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, issued a statement on February 22, 2019, announcing that they were “considering our options.” Author’s note: On Friday, February 22, 2019, both the companies issued a joint statement that Jussie Smollett would not appear in the final two episodes of the current season.
The two Nigerian brothers investigated on suspicion of assaulting Smollett, Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, were held in police custody for 48 hours.
The selfie image of Jussie Smollett was posted onto his social media accounts prior to his success as one of the cast-members of “Empire.” It clearly shows Jussie’s comfort with nudity although he has never publicly expressed any support for clothes-free living. I’m sharing this here as ReNude Pride is a blog catering to the bare and same gender loving communities. Obviously Jussie has no problem in sharing images of himself bare.
Recent actions and deliberate inactions of the Chicago Police Department have cast quite a bit of doubt on any decisions that they may or may not make on an individual’s guilt or innocence. Their reputation is not one of the best at this time.
Jussie Smollett, in 2007, did not give straightforward and truthful information to the Los Angeles law enforcement personnel in a traffic violation. Although he did pay his fine and serve his probation sentence, he has since remained law abiding and compliant.
I am personally proud of Jussie Smollett for being a publicly and openly same gender loving (gay) man in both his private and his public life. I am impressed with his representation of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (GLBTQ) community and utilizing himself as a GLBTQ advocate. His level of commitment and dedication is without precedent and beyond reproach. His selfless action for his community is more than commendable.
I am also impressed with his talented and exceptional ability in dramatically portraying the Jamal Lyon character on “Empire.” His acting is not only believable but is both natural and remarkable. His professional interactions with his fellow cast-members is both faultless and flawless. His performance is one of the very reasons that I have been a fan of “Empire” since the very beginning.
As of this moment, I believe in Mr. Smollett’s innocence. The two men who beat him should receive the legal consequence of their actions. However, if Mr. Smollett is guilty, then he should accept and serve his consequences.
Author’s Note: University Spring Break is the week of March 9 – 17, 2019. I am going to Greece who’s having difficulty coping with my father’s death this past November, 2018. I will post cartoons on ReNude Pride while I’m away that week.