Jussie Smollett was all about setting the record straight Saturday night in his first public appearance since reportedly being attacked. Returning to the stage at the end of his sold out concert at the Troubadour in West Hollywood for an encore, he unfolded a small piece of paper and read from it.
“There’s been a lot of stuff that’s been said about me that’s absolutely not true,” he began.
“We don’t believe that shit,” a fan in the VIP area yelled out, to which the rest of the audience cheered and Smollett laughed.
“I was bruised, but my ribs were not cracked. They were not broken,” he continued. “I went to the doctor immediately. Frank Gatson drove me. 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 fuck back.”
The crowd erupted in applause.
“I’m the gay Tupac,” he joked.
Smollett says he was attacked by two men early Tuesday on the way to Subway. They assaulted him, poured bleach on him, and put his head in a noose, according to reports. Chicago police are treating the incident as a hate crime after confirming that Smollett said his attackers yelled "MAGA country" as they assaulted him and used a racial slur. They released images of two “persons of interest” in the case Wednesday.
The entire Smollett family, who released a joint statement following the attack, was in attendance at the concert. They took the stage in solidarity with their brother at the start of the show. Also in the crowd were Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Empire director Lee Daniels, activist DeRay Mckesson, and actor Wilson Cruz among others.
Girl group June’s Diary, discovered by Kelly Rowland, served as the opening act and background for Smollett who performed tracks from his debut album and Empire. Many of the songs, including “Conqueror,” “Heavy,” “Freedom,” and “Hurt People,” took on new meaning as he fought back tears in front of a supportive audience. His resilience was palpable and manifested a performance at once defiant and triumphant.
Before he left the stage, Smollett paid homage to the Black (and brown) queer men who’ve come before him.
“I just want to say that I stand on so many backs of so many people. I stand on the backs of the Lee Daniels’. I stand on the backs of the Wilson Cruz’s and the Bayard Rustin’s and the Langston Hughes’ and the James Baldwin’s and the Alvin Ailey’s, and I pray to God that I made y’all proud.”