Jussie Smollett performed Saturday for the first time since it was reported that he was assaulted by two men in Chicago in the early morning hours of Jan. 29. Taking the stage at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, he fought back tears as he said, “I had to be here tonight, y’all. I can’t let the motherf—ers win.”
“I have so many words on my heart,” the actor/singer said, addressing the 400-capacity club after embracing members of his family. “The most important thing I have to say is thank you so much and that I’m okay. I’m not fully healed yet, but I’m going to. And I’m gonna stand strong with y’all… l will always stand for love. I will never stand for anything other than that. Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love. And I hope that you all will stand with me. So now… let’s do it.”
Before his encore, Smollett again addressed the crowd at length.
“Just because there has been a lot of stuff said about me that’s absolutely not true…” he began, seemingly addressing pockets of skepticism on social media about his account of the attack. He paused to cast a glance at the balcony: “I’m sure my lawyer’s sitting up there like. ‘No, Jussie, no! No! Shut the f— up and sing.’” Referring to some notes he’d brought on stage, he moved on to “four points” he said he wanted to address and clarify: “I was bruised but my ribs were not cracked; they were not broken. I went to the doctor immediately… I was not hospitalized. Both my doctors in L.A. and Chicago cleared me to perform, but said to take care, obviously. And above all: I fought the f— back.”
After the cheers died down, he roused the crowd again by jokingly announcing: “I’m the gay Tupac! So now, we can do our encore.”
His final words before exiting the stage: “We are proud. We are gay.”
Those in attendance at the Troubadour included Rep. Maxine Waters, filmmaker Lee Daniels and actor Wilson Cruz.
He addressed the latter two near the end of the show, saying, “I promised myself I was not gonna cry tonight… Someone in the crowd that I want to recognize: Wilson Cruz is someone I identified with growing up. I stand on the backs of so many people — of the Lee Daniels and the Wilson. Cruzes — and I pray to God I make you all proud.”
Smollett’s brother, Jojo, introduced him, saying, “There’s been an outpouring of love and support … There’s also been (inflammatory) stories spread that have hurt him deeply,” he added. “I sincerely wanted him to stay out of the public until he healed. And after much debate, some arguing and many tears, my family and I have realized that tonight is an important part of his healing. You see, he’s been a fighter since he was a baby. He fought his attackers that night and he continues to fight. Jussie is a true artist every time he breathes. But above all else, he is the epitome of love.”
Later, in introducing a song about his boyfriend, Smollett said, “Over these last four days, my man… Everybody should be blessed enough to have a love like that. But love will f— you up.” Another song intro had him pointing out “a lot of my ‘Empire’ family here. Happy to bring to life my character Jamal Lyon. This song, it kind of has a new meaning for me,” he said, making a segue into “Heaven.”
Last week, Smollett issued a statement to Essence that read: “My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly, I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words. … Soon I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process.”
Smollett said he was on the phone with his manager Brandon Moore when the attack happened. The two are cooperating with authorities as the incident is investigated as a possible hate crime. Smollett plays an openly gay character on the Fox series “Empire.”
According to a statement released by the Chicago Police Department, Smollett told them he was beaten by two men who approached him by yelling out “racial and homophobic slurs” at approximately 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning in the 300 block of E. North Water St. They proceeded to assault Smollett and “poured an unknown chemical substance” on him. The two men are also said to have put a rope around Smollett’s neck before fleeing on foot. Smollett then transported himself to an area hospital after speaking with police.
The Troubadour performance was met with rousing applause, particularly the songs “Hurt People” and “Freedom,” and there were plenty of “Empire” fans in the crowd, several towards the front hoping to get soundtrack albums signed by Smollett (he promised to oblige after the show). Worth noting: the show was sold out before the attack in Chicago occurred.
Smollett is booked by UTA.