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Jussie Smollett: The OUT Interview

For its March 2016 cover story, OUT magazine sat with openly gay Empire star Jussie Smollett, who plays gay middle-child Jamal Lyon, to discuss his rise to fame.

Smollett talked to OUT about how he plans to use his new found fame to continue his longstanding work as a civil rights advocate telling the magazine, “I don’t take this career for granted, and I have been given a very special platform through Empire to speak on a weekly basis about love and truth and acceptance.”

Here are some excerpts:

On how he self-identifies:

“I am a gay man with an extremely open heart. God, I’ve never had to talk about this, so I’m trying to find the words. If I had to label myself, I would label myself as a gay man. With that said, I believe that love is the only thing that matters, and I would hope that anybody would leave themselves open – not to gender, but to love. I would hope that people would not close themselves off from what could be if, lo and behold, you meet somebody that just sweeps you off your feet, and you just can’t do anything about it. If we truly believe that we are born this way, then why do we try to stifle the way we were born? If I fall in love down the road with a woman, I’m going to love that woman.”

On his perception of sexual orientation:

“But this is a conversation that deserves to be had, because we don’t all understand each other. You’re not going to tell me that loving someone is wrong. That does not mean that heterosexuality is not a very real. It does not mean that bisexuality is not very real. It does not mean that homosexuality is not very real. They are all very real. But what I’m saying is, I am a gay man. I am a gay man. I am a gay man. I don’t know how many times I have to say that.”

On his appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and coming out publicly:

“I was like two months deep into this fame thing. The second you say something, they want that to be your storyline forever. That narrative doesn’t interest me at all. I was ready to talk about it. She told me, ‘You don’t have to.’ I will be forever grateful to Ellen for the kindness she showed me. And that made me want to talk about it.”

So when the cameras were set up again in the green room, DeGeneres asked, and he answered. Sort of. “There’s never been a closet that I’ve been in. It was a much bigger deal for other people that it was for me.”

On his growing up and feeling out of place:

“I went to three different high schools in my senior year alone. I felt very, very out of place. Every day it was almost like, when you’re putting your drawers on, you’re putting on your armor. And I dreamed of this – that I would be able to do all things I wanted to do. How would I navigate a world where I was told I should probably be behind the camera because of being gay?”

On the contrast between himself and his Empire character, Jamal Lyon:

“I have not been handed a silver spoon. I have not been handed a thing in my life, except love. With that said, it’s been difficult for me for many of the same reasons as Jamal, but I have had to work really, really hard – not just for acceptance, but also for my bread and butter. And that’s why I don’t take any of it for granted.”

On his Empire costar, Taraji P. Henson’s, perspective on sexual orientation:

“She said, ‘Who gives a fuck? I don’t tell these motherfuckers that I’m straight. Why the fuck do you have to tell them that you’re gay?’ That was so O.G., and it just made me love her even more.”

On the pushback he received for his advocacy on violence against communities of color:

“I was told by two executives, ‘You know, maybe just wait. Just wait.’ My response was, ‘But they’re listening now.’ And if millions of people are listening, you should say something worth hearing.  People were telling me, ‘Don’t do it.’ But I felt like, if I lose my career based on this, then I don’t’ need that career. I know damn well that this is the career for me, but I don’t know how to turn a blind eye.”

On his advocacy efforts as it relates to his career:
“You mean to tell me just because I make movie and TV and music that I can’t talk about what’s going on in the world I live in? Really? That’s not fair. Forget that. Because I’m scared that maybe viewership is going to go down? Or my next single isn’t going to do as well? Or I don’t get a movie? At some point, I was going to say what I believe anyway.”

On his outlook on humanity:

“I absolutely, with everything in my heart, I swear to you, believe that at people’s core, they want to be good – and I will cry about it because I believe it so much. I don’t believe that we were created to hate. I believe that we were created only to love. Love is the root of the happiest of times and of wars. Love, or lack of love – but love is the root of everything.”

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One Remark

  1. Taraji is perfect in every way, I wish all gay kids had a mother like that. I was so afraid of what my mom might say or do to me that I just never told her. Congratulations Jussie

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