Photo: Jeff Kravitz/BMA 2015
Empire's multiple-threat is an artist with a social conscience, and he's thirsty for change. As Jamal, a gay hip-hop star rejected by his father on Lee Daniels's hit TV show, Smollett changed perceptions of black masculinity in national prime time. He also cleared any doubt about his own sexual orientation: "I am a gay man," he told Out in his March cover interview. Smollett also talked about his decision to support the Black Lives Matter movement from the get-go, joining forces with DeRay Mckesson to advocate equality for all.