The scandal surrounding Jussie Smollett was a hot topic as Essence celebrated its annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards Luncheon on Thursday.
“Extra’s” Tanika Ray spoke with the stars, who reacted to Jussie’s arrest for allegedly staging an attack on himself.
Angela Bassett commented, “All that will play out as it is; it’s a very, very sad situation. You know, it’s as if he’s our younger brother, a part of our family. As all that makes its way through the process, I would just like to say that if you’re striving to become the best that you can be and you have a dream, just know that you always, always, always have to put in the hard work, the professionalism, and the positive attitude to go with it.”
Democratic California Representative Maxine Waters pointed out that she knows Smollett personally. She said, “Let me just say, he was a friend. He introduced me when I was awarded at the Black Girls Rock (event), we walked the Pride Parade together, he came to my office, we were at fundraisers in New York together, and when he told me and I heard about this, I believed him and I don’t know where this is going to go. If it turns out that it is absolutely determined to be a hoax, I will be so disappointed.”
She added, “Despite what happens, I’m just hopeful that his life will turn out to be alright at some point.”
Billy Porter shared, “It’s heartbreaking. I am of the mind... that I just have to hear everything, I have to see everything. The Internet creates this place where everything is a knee-jerk reaction. I truly don’t do that anymore — I’m glad that I don’t do that anymore. I didn’t have a knee-jerk reaction to it. It’s heartbreaking either way, whether it’s true or not true. It’s heartbreaking and devastating, so prayers are going up and we’ll see.”
“The Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kandi Burruss, also an acquaintance of Jussie’s, weighed in, noting, “I actually consider him a friend in the industry. We have people that we meet and have love for and Jussie is definitely one of those people for me. I hate the things that I’ve been reading, but… I’m always going to have love for Jussie, so I’m going to wait until I hear from him to know if he’s definitely guilty or not, so I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Burruss also had a message for Smollett, saying, “Jussie, I got much love for you. If it’s not true, just stick to your guns. If there’s some truth to it, just let it go and put it out there... Forgiveness is key, and apologize if that’s the case and keep moving.”
Smollett's legal team has released a new statement, saying, "Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing."
"Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” the statement continued. “The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election.”