The Smollett name was getting some attention with the stellar performances of Jussie Smollett in his role as Jamal Lyon in the Fox drama series Empire, however, his popularity skyrocketed when news broke that he had paid two Nigerian-American brothers to stage a hate-fuelled assault on him. With this negative publicity, it was only a matter of time before the Smollet family came under public scrutiny.
For a long time, Janet Smollett remained unknown, but the soon coming media searchlight would reveal an interesting family, knitted together with close bonds that would come to epitomize camaraderie in tough times.
Janet Smollett has been a teacher and an inspiration, not only to her son but mothers who have gotten to know more about her through her children. She is also a great cook whose recipes currently lie on the digital shelves of Amazon.
Janet Smollett’s Early Life
Janet Smollett was born on the 27th of November, 1952 in New Orleans. Much of her background is unknown and details of her life remain concealed. During her younger years, Janet Smollett was an active member of the US Civil Rights movement, she campaigned and joined other notable civil rights fighters like Bobby Seale and Huey Newton.
After getting married to Joel Smollett, a Jewish man of Russian and Polish origins in California, Janet Smollett began on the project that would define her life. She and her husband gave birth to six children and they raised all of them together, although Joel was away from his children’s lives for a portion of their childhood.
Having spent a considerable portion of her life fighting for civil rights, she has impacted the desire and drive into her children, this is reflected in the fact that her children are involved fighting for causes like Black Lives Matter and HIV/AIDS prevention.
Also revered as a great cook who made it a point of duty to make home-cooked meals in celebration of the family and its accomplishments, Janet Smollett, with the help of her children, has had her recipes published in a cookbook, which was released in 2018.
The cookbook, titled The Family Table: Recipes and Moments From a Nomadic Life features tales of her life and that of her family’s journey, which included living in thirteen states across the United States alongside her cooking recipes.
There have been rumors and social conspiracies that have suggested that Janet is related to US Senator Kamala Harris, this has been in part because her maiden name is Harris. The truth is that she is not in any way related to the US Senator.
Matriarch of the ‘Nomadic’ Smollett Clan
The Smollett family moved an astonishing thirteen times across various US cities while the kids grew up. This was mostly because of the nature of their father’s work.
Perhaps most importantly, Janet Smollett is considered the first and primary acting coach of her children, having introduced them to different forms of performance arts, including acting, singing, and dancing. Janet introduced her children to professional acting when they were young and some of them have gone on to become known actors such as Jussie and Jurnee Smollett.
As the matriarch of the Smollett family, she is the mother to six children named – Jurnee, Jake, Jazz, Jocqui, Jojo and Jussie. As a mother with an artistic inclination, Janet would use two primary tools to enhance family bonding and unleashed creativity – food and shared family moments.
At every new house they settled into, she would spend the first three days setting up a long, wooden kitchen table made out of planks of hard-wood. This hand-crafted table would become the heart-beat of the household. Around this table, she’d get the kids to sing and perform little plays. This knack for performing together would come in handy years later when they would take to the big screen together as siblings. Janet’s husband, Joel Smollett died as a result of cancer on the 7th of January, 2015.
The Smollet Siblings Are All Involved In Entertainment
All of Janet Smollett’s children once starred in a sitcom, On Our Own. The ABC show only lasted one season between 1994 and 1995.
Jojo Smollett, the oldest of the siblings is an actor and producer. Born in 1977 in New York City, he worked on the following film projects The Practice (1997), City of Hope (1991), and Last Breeze of Summer (1991).
Jurnee Smollett-Bell is an actress and the eldest child in the family. Her first major appearance was as a child actress in television sitcom On Our Own which starred her alongside all her siblings. She has starred in projects like Parenthood, Underground, and True Blood. She is a recipient of three NAACP Image Awards. Her most recent work is her role in the 2020 American super-hero film Birds of Prey.
Jussie Smollett is the most popular of all her children. He is an actor and has been acting since he was a child, starring in films like North and The Mighty Ducks. He, however, achieved fame through the show, Empire, where he played Jamal Lyon. Apart from being an actor, Jussie, is also a musician who has released a couple of tracks and projects, like the EP, The Poisoned Hearts Club and singles like Hurt People, Freedom, etc.
While Jussie Smollett starred on Empire, Janet called him every Wednesday to talk about the show, including the songs and the actions of the characters on the show.
Jake Smollet is also an actor and chef. His first appearance was as a kid diaper model. He starred in the sitcom Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper and in the ABC sitcom, On Our Own alongside his five siblings. He also starred alongside his sister Jurnee Smollett in the feature film Eve’s Bayou. Alongside his five siblings, he appeared on Food Network in 2016 to cook family-style meals every Saturday on Smollett Eats. He occasionally appears as a guest judge on Food Network’s Chopped Junior.
Jazz Smollett is part of a production company established by Juree and Jussie.
Jocqui Smolett is the only one not fully involved in showbiz anymore as he works at a tech company.