As the third Lyon to visit Mzansi, Jussie Smollett aka Jamal in Empire, had members of the media eating out of the palm of his paw. He basically had them at “I’m wearing all South African designers” when he stepped onto the stage.
The actor and singer is in town to shoot a music video and perform at an invite-only unplugged session.
Together with American veteran choreographer, Frank Gatson (whom you’ll know from his association with Destiny’s Child), the 34-year-old Smollett held auditions for dancers to be in his video.
When he mentioned this, the MC for the press conference, Nandi Madida, asked him if he’d heard any gqom since being in the country.
What ensued was a hilarious moment where Smollett was intent on getting the pronounciation of the dance subgenre correct. He thought he hadn’t heard any until Gatson mentioned that they played a gqom track at the auditions.
A woman from Smollett’s entourage offered clarity: “It’s the one where they keep stacking onto each other.”
Distruction Boyz’s Omunye is undeniable.
Anyway, Smollett was thrilled to be in Jozi and said this was a full circle moment for him. Before he embodied the middle child of Cookie and Luscious Lyon, he actually worked for an organisation that sought to bring awareness to the injustice that was apartheid.
“But I’m not going to be that American dude that gets here and cries all the time,” Smollet said as he got a little choked up.
While he feels blessed to be here, he’s not surprised that South Africans love Empire - which is now in its fourth season on Fox Africa - as much as they do. “At the end of the day,” said Smollett, you have a show about family and I don’t care where you’re from, we can all identify with the need for that connection.”
He was asked about what it’s like to live in Trump’s America and the witty Smollett quickly responded: “Trump can kiss my ass. Like, truly. Trump can kiss my black ass. He might want to.
I can’t stand him!” Smollett said he’s managed to dodge many of the obstacles thrown his way by the administration and instead, encourages people to do things themselves.
Smollett’s debut album will be released on March 2 and his new single, Hurt People, which is about breaking the cycle of hurt people hurting people, is the one that he’s shooting the video for. The video is inspired by Nelson Mandela and he’ll be using South African dancers and crew to shoot it.
* Empire airs on Fox Africa (DStv Channel 125) at 9pm