Smollett was born Justin Smollett in Santa Rosa, California, and is the third of six children born to Janet (née Harris) and Joel Smollett. He has three brothers and two sisters: Jake, Jocqui, Jojo, Jurnee, and Jazz, several of whom are also actors. His father was Jewish (his family emigrated from Russia and Poland). His mother is African-American.\n', '
Smollett began his acting career as a child, co-starring in the films The Mighty Ducks (1992) and Rob Reiner\'s North (1994). On television, he starred alongside his five real-life siblings in the short-lived ABC sitcom On Our Own from 1994–95. In 2012, Smollett returned to acting with the leading role in Patrik-Ian Polk\'s LGBT-themed comedy-drama The Skinny. Also that year, he released an EP album titled The Poisoned Hearts Club. He later guest-starred on The Mindy Project (2012) and Revenge (2014).\n', '
In 2014, Smollett was cast as Jamal Lyon—a gay musician who struggles to gain his father\'s approval—opposite Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in the Fox drama series Empire. His role was hailed as "groundbreaking" for its positive depiction of a black gay man on television. Smollett reprised his role in subsequent seasons, and directed an episode of the fourth season in 2017.\n', '