By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, mgreen@afro.com

Let’s be real- despite any negative publicity its seen in the last few months- the Smollett family name has been in Black Hollywood for about three decades.  With two of the siblings, Jazz and Jake featured on CLEO TV’s new show “Living By Design,” the family is ensuring that the Smollett legacy stays alive, well-respected and important in households- particularly those of color.

Jazz and Jake Smollett, the second oldest and youngest of the Smollett clan, have teamed up for CLEO TV’s, a subsidiary station of TV ONE targeting millennials, for a lifestyle show that transforms the lives of those they’re helping and inspires those tuning into the television.

Siblings Jazz and Jake Smollett teamed up for the new show Living By Design on TV ONE’s CLEO TV. (Courtesy Photo)

“I feel like ‘Living By Design,’ is about living with adventure and celebrating life, and bringing that celebration into your home, to be able to share who you are, with anyone who enters your home,” Jazz Smollett told the AFRO in an exclusive interview with her and Jake.

“The fact that we get to showcase two of our big passions- baking and redesigning spaces and the whole design element… we had a lot of fun doing it.  It just came so natural,” Jake told the AFRO.

While the two may be new to Cleo, a new station in itself, Jazz and Jake have been grinding in the media and lifestyle industries for a while.  Inspired by a mother who was quite the homemaker, cook, seamstress, furniture builder, momager and more, Jazz and Jake explained that they had been cooking, designing, sewing and building for most of their lives.  The two, as well as their other siblings, such as Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Jussie Smollett, worked professionally in show business- and Jazz even worked a lot behind the scenes as a producer after graduation from New York University.  As a duo, the siblings began a vegan pie company many years ago, teamed up later for a cooking show that featured Jake doing 10-minute dinner tutorials, a cookbook and ultimately, “Living By Design.”

“It’s really a blessing to be a part of it and to be on a new platform like CLEO that’s really telling the stories’ of us.  There’s no colorful lifestyle network. It’s all mid-American, focused on a certain group of people- and that’s not cooking, that’s not lifestyle- lifestyle is color,” Jake explained.  “I think it’s bigger than us, it’s bigger than the show. We’re getting to be a part of a new Black and Brown network.”

And not only is it on a Black-owned network, but “Living By Design,” also tells 16 different stories’ of people of color in a special and unique way.

“It’s part of our story that’s not being told.  We redesigned their space based on the aesthetic of the rest of their house.  We took into account, culture, passion, family legacy, lineage, history and all those things we don’t get to see when we look at most redesign blogs,” Jazz explained.  

“That’s one thing that’s important to us, that we get to know who they are, before we work on the redesign, so that when we’re planning the redesign, we’re basing it off of who they are and their specific, unique personalities, as opposed to any generic or cookie-cutter redesign that we’re putting on them because we think it looks good,” she explained.  “It’s great to see how their lives are able to be transformed in subtle and not so subtle ways, by just enhancing their space and making their space feel like a sanctuary, so that they feel like themselves in their space.”

In sharing African American stories and experiences through the realm of design, Jazz and Jake also found it important to note that not all Black and Brown narratives are alike.

“Not all of us are the same, we’re not all monolithic, and you see that reflected in these stories as well. They’re are some people who we’re using the cream-colored, nude-colored linen fabric, and they’re some people who we’re using mudcloth for.  They’re some people we’re putting up artwork of Africa for and some people that we put up anime. It just varies,” Jazz said.

While they’re busy working to inspire others through their passions, Jazz and Jake shared that they too are motivated by filming, “Living By Design.”

“I’ve been inspired by so many different things doing this show.  First of all, every time I work on someone’s space, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m changing my space to look like this!  I love your style!’ But I get so inspired by just talking to the people, and hearing their stories, and the things that they’ve overcome, the things that they’re doing and the things that they’re able to accomplish.  That’s been really inspiring,” Jazz told the AFRO. “What’s also been really inspiring is their reactions. Every time they cry, I cry.”

“They’ve almost gotten me on a few,” Jake added in jest, but with all seriousness at once.

“It was really inspiring to be able to connect with someone like that, and in a way that they feel inspired.  That synergy, that communication, that connection between people who we don’t really even know, that connection in itself is inspiring.”

To feel the connection and be inspired by watching “Living By Design”, check out episode clips and the CLEO TV schedule by going to https://mycleo.tv/show/living-by-design/.

Jazz and Jake are hoping for a season renewal and in the meantime encourage people to check out the show on CLEO and follow them on social media at @JakeSmollett on all platforms and at @JazzSmollett on Facebook and Twitter and @JazzSmollettWarwell on Instagram.

“We’re constantly putting out content, working on new projects, and books and more stuff to come,” Jake said.

 

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor