Last week during Empire, Jussie Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, came out during a musical performance, and although his character is out and proud, many people feel that Smollett’s own sexuality is up for discussion. However, Smollett has been mum on his sexuality, refusing to address it, and that’s definitely his prerogative.
But fans and viewers of the show seem to feel that just because the actor has an equality tattoo and has taken on other roles involving gay characters, he must be gay in real life.
In an interview with Sway in the Morning, Smollett discussed why he doesn’t feel the need to address his sexuality. You can fast-forward to the eight-minute mark to hear his comments.
No, [fans shouldn’t assume I’m gay,] but it’s also fair, and I don’t see a problem with that and I don’t really care. … This is not a gay black show. This is a show about human experiences. … I’m not willing to confirm or deny anything. I live my life. If someone is looking for a box to put me in, that’s not going to happen. I live my life, and if you really want to know about me, just watch, because I don’t hide anything. I just don’t choose to talk about my personal life.
But Smollett’s co-star recently chose to talk about it.
In an interview with BlackFilm.com, Malik Yoba, who also appears on Empire, addressed how the show approaches homosexuality in the black community and seemed to inadvertently disclose Smollett’s sexuality:
I think that our show represents a huge opportunity to stay in the culture beyond entertainment value, and there’s an intrinsic nature [if] you have the gay factor, right? So, obviously, Lee [Daniels, the show’s co-creator,] is gay. That was an important storyline for him. I think it’s important for people to see themselves. Even within the black community. But if you aren’t really, really taking it off of screen and making it live in the community in a significant way … like I know Jussie, he is gay, and he’s very committed to issues around the LGBT community. He and I have a very close relationship.
Yoba is now backtracking when it comes to his statement because the Internet’s dragged him for outing Smollett. Many people thought Yoba was out of line when it came to discussing something his co-star has refused to discuss in the past. Others really didn’t see anything wrong and stated that they always thought Smollett was gay anyway. Which is just about as ignorant as outing someone.
In a statement to USA Today, Yoba said he was misquoted: “I was misquoted in the article. My reference to Jussie was only about his character and storyline on Empire.”
BlackFilm.com has not confirmed any more details about the interview, but in rereading the quote from the interview, Yoba’s denial doesn’t really make sense at all. In the end, what matters is that no one has the right to assume that someone is out. Nor do they have the right to make assumptions about someone’s sexuality based on the characters they choose to play, how they dress or even something as simple as a tattoo.