Jussie Smollett may not have been at Saturday’s NAACP Image Awards, but his presence was certainly felt. That was especially true when Chris Rock took the stage to present an award.
“They said no Jussie Smollett jokes,” Rock said. “I know. What a waste of light skin. You know what I could do with that light skin? That curly hair? My career would be out of here. Fucking running Hollywood.”
Despite the fact that Smollett recently had all charges against him dropped, it’s clear that some people still think he was behind his own attack. “What the hell was he thinking?” Rock asked. “From now on, you’re Jessie from now on. You don’t even get the ‘U’ no more. That ‘U’ was respect. You don’t get no respect from me.”
But not everybody at Saturday’s ceremony was ready to throw Smollett under the bus. While being interviewed on the red carpet, Lena Waithe told Variety that she believes Smollett, and added that “being queer and black is like having a target on your back every time you walk out the door.”
Smollett was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor for his work in Empire but lost to Grey’s Anatomy’s Jesse Williams on Friday. Though there were rumors that Smollett would attend Saturday’s show, he was ultimately a no-show, much to the dismay of host Anthony Anderson, who told Variety that he hoped Smollett would attend. “I’m happy for him that the system worked for him in his favor because the system isn’t always fair, especially for people of color,” Anderson said.
Smollett has kept a low profile since the Cook County state’s attorney’s office dropped the charges. He performed community service that included speaking to high school students at the headquarters of Rainbow/Push, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson’s civil rights organization, but has yet to make an official public appearance since leaving the courtroom.