Janet Smollett is a mother of actors, and came under the spotlight when her son and “Empire” breakout star, Jussie Smollett, staged a fake hate crime assault against himself and filed a false police report.
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Early life and family
Janet Faye Harris was born 27 November 1952, in New Orleans, Louisiana USA, of African-American ethnicity. There is no available information about her family and growing-up years, except that she was an active member of the US Civil Rights movement when she was young, along with Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, who were the founders of the Black Panther Party. It is said that one of her first mentors was Julian Bond, who was a leader of the civil rights movement. Her educational attainment hasn’t been revealed, but she is reported to be a teacher.
Jussie Smollett and his mother Janet Smollett 💛.
Janet is from New Orleans and Joel Smollett from New York, and they met in the Bay Area where they campaigned for civil rights. Joel, born on 8 October 1956, is Jewish and the son of migrants from Russia and Poland. They were married and have six children – Jojo, Jazz, Jussie, Jurnie, Jake, and Jocqui. The family lived a nomadic lifestyle, and moved thirteen times from coast to coast across the US; however, it was not revealed why they lived this way and for how long, presumably to do with their support of the civil rights movement. Wherever they ended up staying, Janet had a ritual of turning planks of hard wood into a long table that usually took three days to finish.
This was where she served home-cooked meals to her kids, and where they celebrated holidays and other milestones. Another tradition that they have is that the kids performed during birthdays and mother’s day celebrations. Singing, dance-offs and poetry readings were the standard entertainment. Aside from creating happy memories as a family, all these events helped the kids grow closer.
She made sure that the kids also played sports, read poetry by Langston Hughes, and knew figures like Malcolm X. She taught her kids that they should never start a fight because they would get into trouble if they did. However, if someone picked on them, they should stand up for themselves. When they were young, they got a toy from their mother if they got into a fight defending themselves, a sibling, or a friend.
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I promised Mommy 16 years ago I’d take her on a trip to London, just she and I, when I got a lil somethin somethin to stand on. Grateful the universe allowed it. Even more grateful for this woman. It’s not a 10th of what she deserves. Just grateful man. Next trip she says is Ghana. 🙌🏿 So until next time. One love✌🏿 #MyQueen #QueensRaiseKings #MommyDontTakePicsSoThisBlurryAssShotWillHaveToDo 🤷🏾♂️😂
She instilled in them a strong sense of justice – of speaking-up and fighting for what’s right and what they believed in.
Joel was not there while the kids were growing up, and it’s unclear what the reason was. There were some reports that said he left the family and came back into their lives later, but kept in touch. No one really knows for sure the why’s and how’s of it. However, not being there doesn’t mean that there was some animosity on the part of the kids, because they were vocal in expressing their love towards their father. On 7 January 2015, Joel lost his battle to cancer at the age of 58 – Jussie posted a photo on his Instagram of his dad carrying him when he was still very young and said, ‘…my family lost our king but we gained a righteous angel; showed us the deepest strength and dignity until your very last breath.
You are not just a fighter… You are the CHAMP.’ The youngest daughter, Jurnee, also posted on Instagram how she felt about her father, saying, ‘Love You Dad. Keep flying high up there. Till we meet again… Love your little girl.’
The Smollett Children
All six children have been acting since they were young, and there appeared to be no sibling rivalry. They were all cast in 1994 for the ABC sitcom, “On Our Own,” with the eldest at age 17 and the youngest only one year old at that time; it only ran for one season. They each went on to pursue acting, singing, producing, and other interests. After two decades, the Smollett siblings were able to work together again in 2016, for the Food Network, in a cooking show entitled, “Smollett Eats.”
They shared the family’s favorite recipes as they cooked and baked for a birthday party for kids, or a midnight BBQ for friends.
Who is Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett, the middle child of Janet and Joel, was born on 21 June 1982. He starred in movies such as “The Mighty Ducks” (1992) and “North” (1994) when he was younger, but became popular in 2015 when he was cast as Jamal Lyon in the hit Fox TV series, “Empire”, for which he co-wrote two songs on the Original Soundtrack from Season 1.” He signed a recording contract with Columbia Records that same year, and released his debut album, “Sum of My Music” in March 2018 through his own label. Interestingly, he came out as gay in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres soon after his character in the TV series came out.
The staged racist and homophobic attack against Jussie Smollett
On 29 January 2019, Jussie went to Chicago Police Department saying that he was a victim of a hate crime and had been assaulted. He said that as he walked home at around 2 a.m. in the affluent Streeterville neighborhood of downtown Chicago, two masked men physically assaulted him – beat him up, poured an unknown substance on him, and even put a noose around his neck. They also hurled homophobic and racial slurs at him, and yelled, ‘This is MAGA country,’ which refers to President Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign slogan.
Upon investigation, the Chicago Police said that the attack might have been staged, as the masked men turned out to be Nigerian brothers, who previously worked as extras in “Empire,” and claimed that they were paid $3,500 by Mr. Smollett to assault him.
The brothers, Abel and Ola Osundairo, were born in the US, were struggling financially, and each declared bankruptcy in September of 2016. Apparently, Jussie approached Abel and wanted him and his brother to help him stage the attack. They said that Jussie orchestrated everything; he gave instructions on what to do and what to say, and where the assault should take place to be caught on camera. After being detained and questioned by the police, they weren’t charged and are acting as co-operating witnesses to this case.
The police said Jussie wanted to stir up publicity because he was upset over his salary as an actor on “Empire,” which was reportedly between $65,000 and $100,000 per episode, however, according to Fox, Jussie had not previously raised objections about his salary.
According to Abel, Jussie was also dissatisfied with how his studio handled the death threat that he received on 22 January. The letter says, ‘Smollett Jussie you will die black,’ followed by anti-gay slurs, and it was also laced with a powder that turned out to be crushed ibuprofen, which was turned over to the FBI. The police said that Jussie sent this letter to himself to get attention.
Jussie Smollett’s lawyers say that he’s innocent, but the Chicago PD gave a detailed report on how Jussie staged the attack. In February 2019, the Cook County State Attorney’s Office charged him with 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, but the charges against him were dropped in March, and his record has been wiped clean according to his lawyers. He forfeited his $10,000 bond payment, and would carry out community service.
— Jussie Smollett (@JussieSmollett) February 21, 2018
Chicago Police and the city mayor stand by their case against Smollett. The police ordered Jussie to pay $130,000 to cover the cost of manpower used in the investigation, and when he refused, they sued him for three times that amount. A special prosecutor was named in October to investigate why the charges were dropped.
There was an outpouring of support from a lot of people, including his “Empire” co-stars, celebrities Steve Harvey and Viola Davis, politicians such as Senator Kamala Harris, and fans after the initial report of the attack. People were conflicted on what to believe after the result of the police investigations was released to the public. Most of the support and sympathy for Jussie turned to disappointment and anger; the family stayed by Jussie’s side and fully supports him. The producers of “Empire” reportedly said that Smollett’s character would be removed from the final two episodes of this season.
Interesting facts and rumors
- Janet is great friends with Angela Davis, an American activist and author, who celebrates Mother’s Day with the family
- Janet is rumored to be a cousin of US Senator Kamala Harris, because her maiden name is Harris, but they are not related
- She is a great cook and her recipes even made it to a cookbook entitled, “The Family Table: Recipes and Moments from a Nomadic Life,” by Jazz, Jussie, Jurnee, and Jake.
- She is Jussie’s and Jurnee’s acting coach
- Janet is a fan of “Empire”, and calls Jussie every Wednesday to talk about the episode for that week
- She is a fan of Whitney Houston
Jussie beautiful family his brother Jake sister Jurnee and her handsome son Hunter with their beautiful mother Janet🌺❤️🌺
There were often photos of Janet posted on her children’s IG accounts, and she looked quite fit, and dressed as fashionably as her daughters. She has brown hair and brown eyes. She is 5ft 6in (1.6m) tall and weighs around 112lbs (51kgs). Her vital statistics haven’t been disclosed.
Net worth, salary
There is no information about any business that she owns or her work, although, there were some reports that she is a teacher. It was not revealed how much she received from the cookbook that was published and released in 2018 with her recipes on it, but sources estimated her net worth to be around $250,000 as of early 2020.