On Fox's gripping new hit nighttime soap Empire, Jamal Lyon hasn't had trouble finding love, but his dad Lucious (played by Terrence Howard) just happens to have a lot of issues with who Jamal loves — a man named Michael. His mom Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), on the other hand, walked in on Jamal and Michael in a, ahem, compromising position last week and didn't care at all, because she is much more supportive of Jamal. The soulful songwriter is played by Jussie Smollett, but is he single, or has he found love in real life too? As far as I can tell, Smollett doesn't seem to currently be in a relationship, at least not one that he has discussed publicly or posted about on social media, but has lots of famous friends.
As every '90s kid knows, Smollett hails from a famous family that starred in the sitcom On Our Own with real-life siblings Jazz, Jocqui, Jake, Jojo, and Jurnee (best known as Jess Merriweather from Friday Night Lights). Judging by Smollett's Instagram account, the actor is super close with his siblings, the Empire cast, and Raven Symone, but there doesn't seem to be one main squeeze in his life. He did tell the David Bridgeforth Quarterly in 2012 that he's been in love twice. Smollett's relationship status back then? "I am happy. I am truly a happy man. Whatever you want to take from that, it is what it is." Of course his status may have changed since then, and while it seems that Smollett doesn't currently have a significant other, he holds a lot of causes close to his heart. Here are some of the issues he's most passionate about.
Diversity In The Media
Smollett recently spoke out to MTV about the lack of diversity in this year's Oscar nods — known lately by the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite — but he said television is the new place to find diversity.
“TV is a more diverse space right now because TV is driven by the people,” he said. “When a television show like Scandal becomes the biggest show in recent history, suddenly advertisers and networks want to jump on that. And what it’s showing is that people want to see diversity. They want to see people who look like them on television, and they also want to see people who don’t look like them on television. But in film, everything is still driven by individuals — and those individuals can make or break your movie.”
HIV & AIDS
The 31-year-old actor is also passionate about trying to find a cure for HIV and AIDS. The Black AIDS Institute named Smollett as one of the 30 artists under 30 truly making a difference for the cause.
"The fight against HIV/AIDS is something that I have been passionate about since I was a little kid," he told DBQ. "We worked with HIV/AIDS organizations in South Africa and I’ve been working with the Black Aids Institute here since I was 15. That’s one of the most important things in my life. So don’t be surprised if you see me speaking out on Capitol Hill one day."
Smollett joined in on the recent protests regarding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, as well as the decisions not to indict the cops who shot them. "I'm disgusted," he said on Instagram after the Garner decision in December. "I'm disappointed. I'm praying. I'm fighting. I'm yelling. I'm promising to stand for you and all whose breath has been stolen. They won't stop. So we can't stop."
Image: Chuck Hodes/FOX