For all the “Empire” fans in Chicago, Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) does way more than just act in a hit television series. He’s also an author, is currently helping save lives with an LGBTQ youth organization [Trevor Project], making music and directing.
On October 11, The “Empire” actor and singer showed how much he loves and cares about Chicago by celebrating “National Coming Out Day” with AT&T and friends Shangela [Ru Paul’s Drag Race and A Star is Born] and singer-songwriter Wrabel.
Smollet, 35, has teamed up with the Trevor Project, a well-known LGBTQ advocacy group, for its “How to Save a Life” campaign. Smollett is encouraging supporters to apply to become volunteer crisis counselors for TrevorText and TrevorChat ― the group’s text and web chat support services for queer youth.
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are more than four times likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and nearly half of all transgender adults have made a suicide attempt – most before the age of 25. Each year The Trevor Project answers more than 68,000 calls, chats, and texts, but estimates that more than 1.5 million LGBTQ youth experience suicidal ideation and could benefit from its services. Volunteers who sign up through the “How to Save a Life” campaign will increase the organization’s capacity to serve more LGBTQ youth than ever before.
“It’s heartbreaking to think of the amount of LGBTQ youth out there who feel hopeless and alone, or think they don’t have support,” said Smollett. “Just one supportive person can decrease an LGBTQ youth’s risk of suicide by 30 percent, and The Trevor Project is giving everyone the amazing opportunity to be that person. I can’t encourage you enough to apply — volunteering your time can save lives.”
Smollett also encouraged people to check up on each other because you never know what people are going through any time of the day, which is why you should lead with love.
Smollett described a time where he had to help someone in a situation where they felt they didn’t want to live anymore and how he dealt with it personally.
“It’s about love and letting them know how loved they are, that they are important and necessary in the place they are in, in this world. It’s about stepping up and being a friend, being honest like I’m checking up on you and not only people that are vocal about their pain but the people that are not vocal, who are always smiling.”
L.A. based musician Wrabel, who also performed that evening, described how he was afraid to come out when he was 23 years old. “I stayed up all night with one of my best friends trying to prepare to come out to my family because I had fallen in love. I mean it was hard. I grew up in the church, so I had it in my head that this will go away, or something is wrong.”
D.J. Pierce [known by his stage name Shangela Laquifa Wadley] is an American drag queen, reality television personality best known for competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Shangela, who is also co-starring in 2018 A Star is Born and plays the emcee of the drag bar, advised LGBTQ youth or anyone who is struggling with coming out, to do it for themselves.
“The most important thing is to understand that who you are in your self-discovery and that it is an OK place. Realize that you are coming out for yourself, it is not about coming out for other people, seeking acceptance from other people or love from others. You must find that the most significant part about coming out is self-realization– looking in the mirror and going, ‘you know what, I love every part of who I am inside and out.’”
At the event, Smollett performed songs such as: “Good Enough,” “You’re So Beautiful,” “Hurt People,” off of the “Empire” soundtrack and his independent debut album entitled: “Sum Of My Music,” that is available in stores now. Throughout his set, two of five of June’s Diary members, Ashly Williams and Shyann Roberts, were his background singers.
June’s Diary is an American girl group formed by singer Kelly Rowland and choreographer/director Frank Gatson Jr. on the BET docu-series Chasing Destiny in 2016. Jussie also announced that the girl group had been signed to his independent label and they will be working on music soon.
In addition to music, Smollett has a book out that he wrote with his siblings called: “The Family Table.” In it, they share their love of cooking and their recipes.
Smollett has been busy not only directing a couple of episodes of “Empire” but also investing in a YouTube series as an Executive Producer along with Issa Rae. The series is entitled: “GIANTS,” and stars James Bland.
Season 5 of “Empire” has begun, and The Lyons are picking up the pieces after losing Empire to Eddie Barker. Smollett, who plays the middle son “Jamal Lyon,” is writing enough songs to fulfill his obligations to Empire records even as he tries to get out of his contract. Smollett also spoke about his character on the dating scene. “Jamal is a hoe (laughs), no in all seriousness, Jamal is a monogamous dater.”
Smollett’s mission on the show is to express to the audience that two healthy gay Black men can be in a relationship. In real life, Smollett admits that he is currently in a relationship with a boo he is in love with.
As a member of the LGBTQ community and a person of color, Smollett loves what the Trevor Project has done for people for a long time and all the work that they do in the community particularly around suicide.
“So many times, the youth are not reached out to, and no one is reaching out to them, but there are resources, there are places, there are people that love them and care about them. They will go and look for somebody because they feel so alienated by their environment. That’s why it’s so important to become a mentor and to reach out to them. This is about having love, with all the s*** that’s going on in the world, this shouldn’t be the focus. [discrimination because of sexuality]
If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, the Trevor Lifeline crisis counselors are available 24/7/365 at 1-866-488-7386. www.TheTrevorProject.org
And you can keep up with Smollett and his moves on his official website http://jussiesmollettmusic.com/