WEST HOLLYWOOD (California) • Jussie Smollett, the American singer and actor who said he was attacked by two men yelling racial and homophobic slurs, struck a defiant tone at a concert last Saturday, his first public appearance since he reported the assault last week.
"I have so many words on my heart that I want to say, but the most important thing I can say is thank you so much, and that I'm okay," the star of Fox television show Empire (2015 to present) told the sold-out crowd at the Troubadour nightclub in West Hollywood.
Smollett said that although he was not yet fully healed, "I had to be here tonight". He said he could not let his attackers win.
The crowd, which included Empire co-creator Lee Daniels and Representative Maxine Waters of California, roared in approval, though Smollett quickly followed by saying: "Now let's have a good time."
He began his set with a cover of Stevie Wonder's Love's In Need Of Love Today. Through his hour-long performance, he made clear his desire to move on from the assault.
"We're not going to harp on" what happened, he said. Other than a small mark below his right eye, he showed no signs of injury, commanding the stage along with dancers and a backing band.
Chicago police are combing through security camera footage and have identified two "potential persons of interest", but lack of progress in the investigation has fuelled speculation online that the attack did not happen as Smollett described.
He addressed that speculation last Friday and again during his performance, as well as perceived inconsistencies regarding the severity of his injuries.
"There's been a lot of stuff that's been said about me that's absolutely not true," he said last Saturday, reading from a crumpled piece of paper. "I was bruised, but my ribs were not cracked, they were not broken. I went to the doctor immediately."
He said he was not hospitalised, and that "above all, I fought back".
Tickets for his show were still available as of last Tuesday afternoon, but sold out within 48 hours of the assault being reported.