Amid charges that he orchestrated a fake "racist and homophobic" hate crime against himself in order to further his career, a past interview with embattled former "Empire" star Jussie Smollett has resurfaced as a potential clue about his motivations in allegedly staging the hoax.
The Hollywood Reporter drew attention this week to some loaded comments by Smollett published in a piece by Billboard about seven months before the infamous January 29 "hate crime attack" that captured the nation's attention.
"Did the pressures of childhood fame or a struggling music career play a role in causing him to concoct what police are now deeming an elaborate hoax?" asks THR.
"Pusha T, Ella Mai, Jussie Smollett & More Give Aspiring Artists Advice on How to Maintain Their Mental Health," reads the title of Billboard's discussion of "the importance of maintaining your mental health while pursuing a music career," as addressed by Smollett and five other rising stars in the music industry.
"Continue to write and create for yourself," Smollett advised artists struggling to make it in the daunting industry. "Write about yourself. Self-care is really important."
He then got "honest" with his fans, which he stressed that he's "not good at": "I’m trying to be as honest as I can. I’m not really good at that," he said. "I'm trying to come up with a good answer but I’m not good at that. I’m not good at it yet, and I know the way I stay mentally healthy is by admitting things."
Smollett then confessed to suffering from both jealousy and insecurity. "I admit that I’m jealous, I admit that I’m insecure and that I’m not good at certain things," he said, adding, "I’m getting better at it."
He then made an eyebrow-raising comment about being on the verge of breaking. "I wish I had something really deep to say, but I’m in my 30s and I’m trying my best to learn that I can’t bend anymore," he said. "I’m about to break."
To help him get through it mentally, he explained that he attempts to find "joy" in his circumstances, even in states of "sadness," "frustration," and "hate."
"Also for me, it’s about finding the joy in what we do," he said. "I don’t believe in happiness because I feel like happiness is an emotion that can be taken away. Joy is something that lives deep inside of you. That’s why I find joy in my sadness, frustration, love, hate, excitement, whatever emotion I’m feeling at that moment — joy is always there."
THR notes that Smollett tweeted on January 19 — just three days before he allegedly sent a fake hate letter to himself and ten days before the alleged attack — that "Depression is a real thing y'all."
While there's been some speculation about Smollett suffering from some kind of mental health and/or drug-related issue, the Chicago Police Department had a far more direct interpretation of his alleged actions: He was dissatisfied with his $1.17 million paycheck from "Empire" and believed he deserved better; the media attention would help him attain a bigger check.
In a press conference last week announcing that Smollett had been charged with a Class 4 felony for filing a false police report about the "staged" attack, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson made clear that Smollett was no victim, but the perpetrator of a crime that had already victimized others — and would inevitably victimize more.
"As a black man who spent his entire life living in the city of Chicago, I know the racial divide that exists here," Johnson said. "I know how hard it's been for our city and our nation to come together. How can an individual who's been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?"
"I am left hanging my head asking ‘why?’" he said. "Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusation."
"Bogus police reports cause real harm," he stressed. "They do harm to every legitimate victim who is in need of support by police and investigators as well as the citizens of this city."