3 things I didn't know about Jussie Smollett
The first time I met Jussie Smollett, which I'm certain he doesn't remember, was in 2015 when I was working for Ebony magazine in Chicago. The encounter was completely unexpected. My Ebony crew and I were prepping for an interview with Aldis Hodge and Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who were promoting WGN's Underground at the time. (Why did that show have to end?!) Jussie just came along to hang out with his baby sister for the day.
Celebrity appearances at the office were always a big deal because everyone, no matter the department, wanted to snap a picture with the star of the hour. But Jussie kept his visit under wraps. He wanted all of the attention to be given to Jurnee and her newest show.
This month, when I got to kick it with Jussie again during his Sum Of My Music tour for an AJC project, he was just as gracious, humble, and funny as I remember. This time, he said a few things that caught me off guard but in the best way. It only made me adore him more.
KERMIT THE FROG IS HIS HERO
Many mention Michael Jackson or Beyoncé first when referring to their idols. Not Jussie. While he takes notes from MJ and Queen Bey—like any wise person should do—Kermit the Frog has a special place in his heart.
"When I was younger, people would be like, 'What do you want to be when you grow up.' I would say, 'Michael Jackson or Kermit the Frog.' I think I'm closer to Kermit the Frog," he laughed.
Still confused about his choice? He broke it down.
"I think with Kermit and Michael, I identify with their sensitivity. They were very sensitive. They were leaders of their crew. They just seemed like they were full of love...It's so random putting them in the same category."
HE LIKES BEING DISRESPECTED
Ok, slow your roll. Jussie will not allow you to just punch him the face or curse him out. (Did you see his Empire character Jamal Lyon beat his boyfriend's ass after he betrayed him?! I'm convinced that wasn't all acting.) He was talking about a very particular type of disrespect from a very particular Atlantan.
During his stop in the city, he was determined to make his way to Old Lady Gang, the restaurant founded by Kandi Burruss and inspired by the women cooks in her life, including her mother Joyce Jones.
"I just want to see Mama Joyce or one of the aunties just come out and disrespect me please," he exclaimed. "I want that! You should have to pay extra for them to just come out and disrespect you. Call me a loser. Call me a user. Do what you want with me, Mama Joyce. That would be the Atlanta experience."
And y'all, he was so serious!
ALFRE WOODARD IS ONE OF HIS PRAYER WARRIORS
Jussie is already in a family full of heavy hitters. His extended fam is just as poppin'. He's got the revolutionary Angela Davis, the iconic Taraji P. Henson, and the legendary Alfre Woodard, who's been by his side for decades.
"When I went on my very first audition for Empire, that morning I had breakfast with Alfre," he revealed. "She's like one of my godmothers. I've known her since I was 15. She just sat and prayed with me. She was like, 'This is yours. I feel it.'"
I bet you can predict the next part of the story. Yep, Ms. Woodard was oh so right. His Empire character Jamal and the rest of the crazy Lyons, have forced me to scream at my TV in disbelief for four seasons now. And four years to the date that he booked the hit Fox series, he was directing Woodard in an episode. Talk about a full circle moment.
Did your love for Jussie just grow? Right there with you! Peep us smiling for the camera in 2016 (l) and again in 2018 below.