Empire Star Jussie Smollett Is The HIV Activist We Need

There are some stars that don't know when to stop talking.  We're all allowed our opinions, but sometimes you just need to shake your head and ask why, say "delete your account," or wish they would stick to acting.

But then there are topics where we wish more stars would speak up about, take up, or campaign about.  It looks like the LGBT community has a great spokesperson in Jussie Smollett and he's only going to become stronger, more visible, and more dedicated to our causes. 

There are few actors today willing to go where Smollet does. He doesn’t just share his opinions on broad cultural issues like race, LGBT rights, HIV, and politics. Smollet actually breaks open his heart to reveal his own worries as a Black gay man — and to advocate across the aisle for social justice for all.

Smollett began his activism as a child actor and has seen his career and his sense of global citizenry expand concurrently. Around performers all his life, he treats the Hollywood machinery more like an amusement than something he’s striving to be part of. He’s known celebs since childhood (including Naomi Campbell, who he first met as an 8-year-old). Some of his siblings are still acting (including True Blood’s  Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his mentor is Phill Wilson, CEO of Black AIDS Institute, the only national HIV think tank focused exclusively on African-Americans.

In 2017, Smollett will see his star go supernova. In February, he and Empire co-star Taraji P. Henson become the newest faces of MAC AIDS Fund’s VIVA GLAM campaign. He’ll also star in Ridley Scott’s sure-to-be-a-blockbuster movie, Alien: Covenant. And of course, he's stil on Empire, the TV show that’s now impacting everything from fashion and merchandising to the overall look of American television. – hivplusmag.com


We are very happy that a relevant, active, star like Jussie will be not only doing well in his career, but also using that star power to advocate for such great causes he holds near and dear to him and that are important to our community. We are able to hear more about his thoughts in an interview in the January/February issue of Plus magazine.  Openly gay comedian Sampson McCormick sat down for an intimate discussion with Smollett, where he reveals why he’s worried, as a Black gay man, about the issues that he personally advocates for to ensure social justice across the board.

Here are some excerpts from the interview.

On President-elect Donald Trump and his supporters:

“I think that these are desperate times, desperate, desperate, desperate people. I’m not saying that every single Donald Trump supporter is a desperate person. No, actually I am. I am, but [he is] playing to people’s fears, fears of being less powerful.”

His thoughts on homophobia:

“[Homophobia] is the brainwashing of society. It’s the poisoning of hate. That’s what it is. One of my biggest mentors, Phill Wilson, after the Charleston shootings, I was so low, and it was right when I was being honored at the Heroes in the Struggle last year. And I was so down, I could not stop. It was one of the first times that I felt just completely defeated. [Phill] said to me and Jeremy, he said it like this: ‘These are extremely, extremely desperate people. They are such desperate people, because hate is so desperate right now, because hate is going to lose.’ When hate is gonna lose, hate starts getting real low, hate starts getting real, trying everything. Well, I’m gonna shoot you; well I’m gonna do this. That’s what hate does. That’s what Donald Trump does.”

On using his voice as an artist to advocate for social issues:
“That, if anything is my message, it’s that it’s not about, ‘Why is it the artist’s responsibility?’ It’s, ‘Why is it the human being’s responsibility?’ If we fucked up this world, we gotta clean it up. It’s a human being’s responsibility. It’s just that the artist, to me—sometimes we are told that we should shy away from what is our civic duty and what is just our rights and our duty as citizens. That somehow … we’re supposed to shut our mouths. So many times I’ve gotten … [asked], ‘Why don’t you shut up and stop talking about race? Don’t you have some acting to do?’ First of all, that’s all you’ve got? That’s a whack-ass shit you’re gonna say. And it’s just really interesting and I’ve heard that before, but that’s just not my point of view, because I don’t approach it as an actor, I approach it as a concerned person who is affected by it because it’s happened to me, it’s happening to my sisters and my brothers and humanity. I just feel like if people are listening to you, you should have something to say.”

On those who oppose LGBT rights:

“You only become a horrible person when you violate my basic human rights. That is when it becomes a problem, when you start being the aggressor in two consenting adults and the life that they live. That is what makes you an asshole. It’s this lack of understanding, it’s this lack of care.”

On a cure for HIV and AIDS:
“Don’t get me started. I truly believe that there is a cure out there. And the moment that we can actually get out there, we can actually get the governments to finally make money off of that cure, maybe we will see it. Let me go call my security detail, because after this I’m gonna need extra security. No, I mean, y’all can print that shit. Honestly. It’s true.”

On the disproportionate response to HIV infections:

“HIV has been stigmatized and even criminalized. Why is that? I don’t think that it’s really up for debate that if [HIV] all of a sudden started really attacking white heterosexual men, it would be taken very seriously. I mean, am I wrong? It would be taken very, very seriously.”

His message to the community:

“Please, please, please. Hey, I’m not the one that’s sitting here being like, ‘Believe

everything that’s said to you.’ I am the one that’s being like, ‘Listen, until we can really uncover that [cure], until we can really uncover that, I need for y’all to fucking get tested, and I need for you to be responsible. I need for you to get treatment, and I need for you to take care of yourself.’” – hivplusmag.com


Definitely head over to Plus magazine’s exclusive interview with Jussie Smollett.  McCormick tells Plus, “That’s one thing I love about him. He’s an artist for sure, but he’s also very connected to real issues, and we need more people like him.”

We look forward to hearing more from Jussie Smollett.  Keep speaking your mind and being a voice for the LGBT community.


About Plus

Plus is the country’s most widely read magazine aimed at people with HIV and those who care about them. We reach over a million readers each month with print and digital magazines, our website HIVPLusMag.com, and the HIV+ Treatment Guide mobile app available on iTunes and Google Play. We’re dedicated to offering empowering stories about people with HIV, interviews with celebrity advocates, investigative articles on health disparities and criminalization, and information and news on treatment, prevention, stigma, and more.

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