Jussie Smollett performs in L.A. after alleged attack: 'I'm not fully healed yet'
Empire star spoke in public for first time after being victim of suspected hate crime in Chicago last week
Jussie Smollett, who stars on the musical drama series Empire, performed in Los Angeles Saturday night, just days after he reported being attacked in a suspected hate crime in Chicago.
"There are so many words on my heart I want to say," said Smollett, choking up after taking the stage. "The most important thing that I can say is to just keep it simple and say, thank you so much and that, I'm OK."
Smollett told police he was verbally and physically assaulted in downtown Chicago in the early morning hours of Jan. 29 while walking home from a Subway restaurant. He said two masked men punched him, made homophobic and racial slurs, poured an unknown liquid substance on him and put a rope around his neck.
"I'm not fully healed yet, but I'm going to," he told a crowd of about 400 people on Saturday, speaking for the first time in public and in person about the incident. "And I'm going to stand strong with y'all."
Fans wait in downpour
The singer-actor, 36, performed at the Troubadour club in West Hollywood. More than 100 fans lined up around the building hours before the doors opened, waiting in the pouring rain.
"Powering through whatever has happened and really making it less about himself and more about what's going on in our society, I think, is something I'm definitely down to hear so that's why I came," said Jael Allen, who says she bought tickets after hearing about the attack.
The show sold out shortly after news of Smollett's ordeal was publicized.
"To have somebody of that status and this situation happen to them, it was really shocking," said Mia Darby, 21. "But it wasn't a surprise because a lot of this stuff has been going on for a long time."
Authorities so far have not been able to find video of the attack, despite a sophisticated system of surveillance cameras around the city. They have, however, obtained images of people they'd like to question and say Smollett has been co-operative with the investigation.
Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed <a href="https://t.co/xJDDygtocr">pic.twitter.com/xJDDygtocr</a>—@AJGuglielmi
Empire creator in audience
The TV star, who plays R&B singer Jamal Lyon on Empire, has received support and messages online from co-stars, celebrities and politicians. Empire co-creator Lee Daniels and actor Wilson Cruz, known for his groundbreaking role on My So-Called Life, were among those in the audience Smollett acknowledged while on stage.
Some of the songs Smollett performed were from the Empire soundtrack, including the popular track Heavy, which the singer said now has new meaning. The song includes lyrics such as "Daddy raised a soldier, whether he knew it or not" and "I refuse to let my people down."
"I had to be here tonight," he told the audience. "It sounds proud but I couldn't let those motherf---ers win."
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JussieSmollett?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JussieSmollett</a> performed Heavy from his series <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Empire?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Empire</a>, saying the song now has new meaning, with lyrics like: “I refuse to let my people down.” He also gave a shoutout to his co-stars in the audience, thanked fans for support. <a href="https://t.co/I3qCM6gW9N">pic.twitter.com/I3qCM6gW9N</a>—@ZulekhaNathoo
Smollett siblings speak
Before the show, Smollett's siblings took the stage and said they were uncertain whether their brother should perform so soon after the "traumatic experience." Smollett's brother, Jojo, said there have been many "false, undercutting stories," referring to questions being raised on social media about the truthfulness of the attack.
"I sincerely wanted him to stay out of the public until he healed," said Jojo Smollett, referring to his brother. "After much debate, some arguing and many tears, my family and I have realized that tonight is an important part of his healing."
With files from The Associated Press