A defiant Jussie Smollett took the stage Saturday night at the Troubadour night club in Los Angeles and addressed a sold-out crowd, five days after being brutally attacked while walking home in Chicago.
“The most important thing I can say is thank you so much and I’m okay,” said Smollett with his face still swollen from the attack and sporting a visible bruise below one of his eyes. “I’m not fully healed yet, but I am going to [be] and I am going to stand strong with you all.”
For a moment, the Empire star seemed at a loss for words, but screams from the audience of “we love you Jussie” and “you are beautiful” encouraged him.
“I had to be here tonight,” he told the crowd. “It sounds powerful but I couldn’t let those motherfuckers ruin it. I will always stand for love, I will never stand for anything else, and regardless what anyone else says I will only stand for love and I hope that y’all stand with me.”
And with that Smollett, 36, began an electrifying two-hour musical performance of songs from his recent album The Sum of My Music. Wearing black jeans, a loose white shirt, and white sneakers, Smollett, who plays the pop star Jamal Lyon on Fox’s Empire, enthralled his fans, his family, and members of the media who had packed themselves into almost every crevice of the club. This was Smollett’s first public appearance since he reported being assaulted.
The actor and musician told authorities he was attacked by two men as he returned to his apartment in Chicago on Tuesday morning. He said the men shouted racial epithets at him, beat him, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. Police are still searching for the suspected assailants and are investigating the attack as a hate crime.
Actor Wilson Cruz, director Lee Daniels, cast and crew from his Fox hit show Empire, Smollett’s sister Journey, and Representative Maxine Waters of California, were just some of the 475 people who turned out on a rainy Los Angeles night to hear Smollett sing.
Before the show started, Smollett’s older brother Jake told the crowd that he had actually urged his brother to cancel this show.
“If I’m honest, as his big brother, I wanted Jussie to sit this one out,” he said. “I sincerely wanted him to stay out of the public until he heals. But after much debating, some arguing, and many tears, my family and I realized that tonight is an important part of Jussie’s healing. You see he has been a fighter since he was a baby. He fought his attackers that night and he continues to fight.”
Smollett’s fans were not surprised that the show went ahead as planned. Some had traveled as far away as Charlotte, North Carolina, to see him and hadn’t even hesitated getting on their flights confident the show would take place. But because of security concerns, Ticketmaster canceled Smollett’s planned meet and greet with fans before the show.
Hamilton actor Bryan Terrell Clark said, “Jussie is one of the most resilient people I know. One thing I knew for sure was that his love for people and his love for art was going to push him to do this show.
At the end of his captivating performance, Smollett said that he still needed to “set the record straight” over what happened. “I’m sure my lawyer is sitting up there like ‘no Jussie don’t, shut the fuck up and sing,’ but there are couple of points I want to make really clear. Four points. I was bruised but my ribs were not cracked, they were not broken. I went to the doctor immediately but I was not hospitalized. Both my doctors in LA and Chicago cleared me to perform. And above all, I fought the fuck back.”