Empire’s second season wraps up Wednesday night, and—in true Lyon family fashion—you know the Fox drama will go out with a bang. Serayah McNeill plays Tiana on the show, an up-and-coming pop star who pairs her killer vocals with memorable stage outfits and occasional diva-like behavior. For most of season two, McNeill’s character has been on tour, performing her hit track “Look But Don’t Touch” (the song is featured on the show’s latest soundtrack) while trying to hide her jealousy over the fact that Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) has moved on from their past relationship.
It’s clear that McNeill—who also happens to be a member of Taylor Swift's ever-present squad—is just as talented as her onscreen counterpart IRL, but that's where the similarities end between the duo. One of the biggest differences between between McNeill and her character? Their wardrobes. “Our style is not at all similar,” McNeill recently told InStyle. “Tiana’s look is very gaudy and over-the-top—it’s flashy and in-your-face. I love dressing like that for the role, but if I’m going to go there myself, then I’ll personally add elements to make it feel more relatable.”
When she's out and about, McNeill prefers a “street style” look to Tiana’s barely-there outfits. “She definitely likes to show a lot of skin on a day-to-day basis,” said McNeill. “Some of the things she wears are just nuts.” Although McNeill aims for a vibe that’s “city chic, a bit boho, and tomboy-ish,” the petite star has other ideas when it comes to hitting the red carpet. "I look for things that fit my stature and don’t drown me,” she said. “I like to accentuate what I have.” But McNeill doesn’t like to overdo it when showing off her figure. “I’m not a big cleavage person, unless it's done the right way,” she said. “The whole pushed-up look is just not my thing.”
While she may be more subtle in her choices, McNeill doesn't shy away from exposing skin on a red carpet altogether. She often wears outfits that feature strategically-placed cut-outs. “I love them,” she said. “Cut-outs really do accentuate your shape, and there are so many different textures and patterns that you can play around with—but I do draw the line when it comes to how low down it goes in the back.”
Another figure-flattering trend that McNeill is currently coveting? Jumpsuits. “I just got a few of them, and I’m really loving how easy they are,” she said. “You can dress them up or make them casual and sporty, but you’ll still look really rich in the outfit.” Hear that, Tiana? It's time to buy a jumpsuit.
Tune in to Empire’s season finale tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET on Fox to see McNeil's last looks of the season.