Shine Baby Shine: #NewPepsiArtist Jussie Smollett Celebrates With Fans At ‘Empire’ Viewing Party
For Empire fans, Wednesday night was nothing short of ‘LOLs’ jaw-dropping pauses, and seat-clenching silences. FOX’s hit show aired its fall finale leaving many questions unanswered.
But while viewers are still pondering the fate of the Lyon family company and Hakeem’s loyalty, there was one storyline made whole. The Pepsi and Jamal Lyon partnership was officially brought to life in a high-energy commercial. Jamal wasn’t the only one who benefited from a partnership that has previously supported Michael Jackson and Beyoncé. The man behind the character, Jussie Smollett, is also reaping the benefits as the real life spokesperson for the Pepsi brand. In celebration of his cinematic and real time success, Pepsi hosted an intimate event and Vibe got the inside look.
The global brand invited a small collection of guests to New York’s Ganesvoort Hotel for a dual unveiling of the season finale and their latest commercial starring Smollett. But before the commercial debut, we all got to “kick it with Jussie” during an exclusive panel. Host Sway Calloway introduced the actor as well as FOX/Empire Executive Producer, Sanaa Hamri, and Pepsi Senior Marketing Director, Lou Arbetter.
Jamal might be shy at times , especially when it comes to confronting Lucious, but Jussie, commanded the room with ease, cracking jokes and recalling funny blooper moments on set and during rehearsals. While there were some hilarious moments, the panel touched on one of the biggest concerns for fans and executives.
“When you’re a fan of a show, the last thing you want to do is mess with the magic sauce these guys are cooking,” Arbetter said. “We felt that it was an honest integration based on authentic reason for being there.”
Despite various challenges that came their way with making the integration as honest and natural as possible to Jamal’s storyline and Jussie’s aesthetic as an artist, the three panelists agreed that it was an overall success and a memory well made.
“I’m so humbled to be doing anything remotely that the king [Michael Jackson] has done,” Smollett said, “In order to create a space for viewers and fans to see that Jamal is going to the next level in his career. We can make up awards shows; we did with the ASAs which is sort of like the Grammy’s or the AMAs. We can make up things like that, that would be very believable, but in order to really get it across that he’s going upward, Pepsi is that way of getting that across because we all know that from Michael to Madonna to Beyonce to Britney to Pink, everybody they sign [are] superstars. It could’ve been mad corny, the integration, but it wasn’t.”
Following the panel discussion, Pepsi treated guests to a live airing of the finale, which also premiered the commercial. Playing the tectonic beat of the Swizz Beatz-produced song that landed him the gig, “Ready to Go” in the background, Jamal exits a cab and creeps through a dull subway cart. Like Tori Kelly and other artists who have vibed underground, all it took was for Pepsi to bring things to life and ignite an otherwise black-and-white scene. The commercial, although aired as a part of the one-hour show, was far from “corny.” Until then, there was this idea of two separate people casted as the next Pepsi spokesperson, but the commercial scratched that notion, surging both Jussie and his character into one idol.
After guests picked their jaws up off the ground after watching the finale, Jussie blessed the stage with a four-song performance. He started with his duet ballad with Skye Summers (Alicia Keys) “Powerful,” where he led into his campaign song, “Ready to Go”. And to cap the night, the audience and Jussie danced together as he performed “You’re So Beautiful”.
It may be a wrap for this season’s drama and the Pepsi storyline, but there’s no doubt Jamal and the rest of the Lyon family have a lot more in store for Empire’s spring premiere.