Jussie Smollett, the 32-year-old Empire star, is gearing up to bring his music-making swag to the 47th NAACP Image Awards Friday in Pasadena, Calif. Inside the Anthony Anderson-hosted black tie affair, the multi-talented singer and actor will be one of eight honorees to receive the organization’s Chairman’s Award, which shines a light on individuals who use their given platform to highlight social and culture issues affecting us all today.
So how does Smollett, who’s used to attending major awards shows like the Emmys and Golden Globes, feel about the nod? “It’s awesome. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel really cool to be acknowledged, especially by an organization like the NAACP,” he told InStyle. The actor famously portrays Jamal Lyon on Empire, a gay pop and R&B singer whose character has propelled Smollett to not only speak out about LGBT rights, but has also helped the show land a Grammy nomination for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media.
Don’t think Smollett simply works to rack up awards, though. “We got the taste of all the awards pretty much and it’s great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not—to me, the awards are kind of like the numbers. We know it and it’s dope, but I don’t really, I try to stay away from all of that because it’s not why we do it and the second that you get wrapped up in all of that, then it can get tricky with your mind,” he noted.
Ultimately, he saves his energy for delivering lines that help spark change: “It’s for the art and if anything it’s for the viewers, for the fans, it’s for us. I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t dope, because it is and I’m super excited.”
Catch Smollett at the 47th NAACP Image Awards red carpet live on Friday, Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. ET on TV One.