You might not hear the name Joel Smollett often. However, the Smollett last name is well-known within the entertainment industry.
The man behind the bright careers of six stars is none other than Joel Smollett. Though Smollett himself wasn’t a performer, his continuous support for his children helped launch their careers.
Do you want to find out more? In this article, we’ll tell you all about the Smollett family patriarch, and how one great father inspired his children to follow their dreams. Let’s dive in!
Who Is Joel Smollett?
Joel Smollet is the father of six Hollywood stars who made their start at a young age. His children are Jurnee, JoJo, Jussie, Jake, Jocqui, and Jazz.
The patriarch and father of six didn’t identify as white. His son, Jussie says his father would “kill you if you called him white.” Instead, Smollet was proud of his Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. He also had ancestry from Russia, Poland, and Romania.
Joel Smollet was born on October 8, 1956, which makes him a Libra. Though little is known about his personality, his star sign implies he was a social, cooperative person, who disliked conflict.
Joel Smollett’s Early Life
Smollet was born in Poland, where he spent a good part of his childhood. While the Jewish-American electrician didn’t witness the horrific events of World War II, he did live through the aftermath.
For this reason, Joel Smollett was incredibly proud of his Jewish heritage. His identity and race became even more pronounced after Smollett and his family moved to the U.S. as a teenager.
After becoming an American citizen, Smollett was faced with many stereotypes based on his race and heritage. This led Smollett to become an active advocate of the American civil rights movement.
Joel Smollett’s Career
When Smollett first moved to the U.S., he needed to earn a living to fend for himself and his immigrant parents. Unfortunately, this meant getting a college education wasn’t possible.
Yet, Smollett was always a hardworking man. He landed a job as a cable splicer, which helped him support his family.
Then, Joel quickly rose through the ranks by learning and polishing his skills, until he became an established electrician.
Joel Smollett’s Wife
There’s little information available on Joel Smollett’s love life. However, the most prominent relationship in his life would be his marriage to Janet Smollett, which resulted in half a dozen kids!
During Smollett’s twenties, he joined numerous civil rights campaigns. Not only did Joel rally for a good cause, but he also met the love of his life.
On one of the campaigns in New Orleans, Joel Smollett met Janet, a young and ambitious African-American woman who also advocated for human rights. The couple quickly hit it off and got married soon after.
Janet Smollett had a successful career in the entertainment industry, which Joel supported tremendously. She was a well-connected, hardworking TV producer.
While Joel preferred to stay away from the limelight, Janet’s field of work came with a lot of attention. The married couple’s six children preferred the spotlight, which explains why they all followed in their mother’s footsteps.
Janet is also an established philanthropist. She’s a great supporter of the Black AIDS Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDs within the black community.
Joel Smollett’s Children
Joel and Janet Smollett were blessed with a large family. They had four sons and two daughters.
Since both the parents’ names start with a J, the couple loved the idea of giving all their children names starting with J.
The six California-native siblings starred together in the family TV series, On Our Own, which their mother produced.
The Smollett dynasty consists of:
The eldest of six siblings, JoJo Smollett was born on the 28th of August, 1977. Like his siblings, he began acting at a young age, appearing in small roles on TV shows such as Roseanne, Moesha, and The Practice.
However, the 46-year-old former actor stepped away from stardom soon after. Still, he supports his siblings on their entertainment endeavors, often being alongside them in paparazzi shots, and making the occasional appearance on their reality shows.
Jazz Smollett is the oldest daughter in the Smollett family. She was born on April 11, 1980. She became a child actress by appearing with her siblings on the TV show On Our Own.
Afterward, Jazz took a break from acting to focus on her education. In the late 2000s, she made her return to the entertainment industry as an actress/producer.
Smollett shares her mother’s love for the limelight, often sharing snippets of her personal life with eager fans on Instagram. Additionally, her husband, Troy Warwell, is a YouTube personality.
Jussie Smollett is probably the most well-known performer of the siblings. He’s an actor and singer, born on June 21, 1982.
The singer starred in several 90s TV projects. That said, his role as Jamal Lyon on the hit TV show Empire earned him international recognition and critical acclaim.
Like his character on the show, Jussie is an openly gay man. Still, he’s a private person, just like his father. So, there isn’t enough information on his relationships.
Jussie has been the subject of controversy when he falsely claimed to be the victim of a hate crime. The actor staged the fake scene with extras from the Empire set, as well as filed a false police report.
However, Chicago Police investigations proved the hate crime to be a hoax. Consequently, Jussie was fined a whopping $120,000.
Jurnee Smollett is the fourth of the six performer siblings. She’s also a child actress, born on October 1, 1986.
As a child, the starlet made numerous TV appearances, most notably on the cult-classic show Full House. That said, it wasn’t until she starred in the critically-acclaimed film, Eve’s Bayou, as the titular character, that she became a household name.
Since then, Jurnee’s stardom has been on the rise. The American actress has become a stable part of both TV and film. She has a lead role on hit TV shows such as True Blood, and Friday Night Lights.
She also appeared in many films. Nowadays, though, most people know her for playing the iconic DC superheroine, Black Canary, in the 2020 movie, Birds of Prey.
Jurnee has kept her personal life private. However, she has been in one long-term relationship with musician Josiah Bell.
The couple got married in 2012, and welcomed their son, Hunter, six years later. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t last, with Jurnee and Josiah separating in 2020.
Jake Smollett was born on July 29, 1989. He had some minor roles on 90s TV shows. Smollett also starred in a couple of movies before focusing on becoming a chef.
Jake has had a splendid career as a celebrity chef. He encouraged his siblings to participate in their family show Smollett Eats, which he hosted and produced.
The actor-turned-chef has also been a judge on Chopped Junior, as well as being a celebrity chef on The Rachael Ray Show’s cooking segment in 2017.
Lastly, Jake has joined his sister Jazz on their online show, Living By Design.
The youngest of the six siblings is Jocqui Smollet, born on August 1, 1993. While he was also a child actor, unlike most of his siblings, Jocqui stayed away from the entertainment industry.
Instead, the youngest Smollett focused on becoming an entrepreneur. He’s had many successes in numerous endeavors, from real estate to tech and IPOs.
Sadly, Joel Smollett passed away in January of 2015. The loving husband bid farewell to his six children after a long battle with cancer.
Joel Smollet might not be the most popular name in the entertainment industry, but his six children made significant contributions to Hollywood, helping his name live on forever.
Smollett was a Jewish immigrant of Polish and Russian ethnicity. Accordingly, he instilled his resilient values in all his children. As a supporter of the American Civil Rights Movement, it’s only natural that Smollett accepted his son, regardless of his sexual identity.
Smollett’s wife, Janet, was one of the main reasons behind her children’s thriving career in Hollywood, as she was a successful TV producer. Still, the Smollett siblings often thank their late father, Joel, for his hard work and everlasting support.