19 Questions with Empire Star Serayah McNeill

Serayah McNeill, Empire, Periscope
Photo: Alex Reside for InStyle.com

Everyone here at Team InStyle is counting down the days until the return of Lucious, Cookie, Hakeem, Jamal, Andre and more when the Empire team returns to Fox September 23. So when we heard Serayah McNeill, aka the talented Tiana Brown on the show, was in town, we asked her to swing by our offices to give us the scoop on the Lyon Brothers drama.

McNeill had wrapped up a whirlwind few days taking in New York Fashion Week, where she attended the shows of Jeremy Scott, Vera Wang, and Rachel Zoe. So we weren’t surprised to see her looking impeccably stylish when she strolled into our fashion closet in a mustard yellow Zara dress and peep-toe nude booties to give us the download on all things Empire, music, fashion, beauty and more during a live Periscope Q&A on @InStyle’s Twitter page.

Serayah McNeill, Empire, Periscope
Alex Reside for InStyle.com

The Periscope chat will be live on @InStyle’s Twitter page until Saturday, Sept. 19 at 11:15 a.m. In case you missed it, check out the highlights below. But make sure to watch it too, because she actually sang the chorus from Toni Braxton’s “Just Be a Man About It,” and we’ve gotta say, it’s worth watching.

You were in town for New York Fashion Week. What was your favorite show?
"Gosh, it’s hard! I guess it’s between Jeremy Scott and Vera Wang. Vera had all black and very mod, cut-out structured pieces and that’s what I love. Jeremy is so fun. So it’s the best of both worlds."

What is it like being Tiana on Empire?
"I was terrified of my character at first because she has no boundaries. But now it is cool to play her because we are so opposite personally. It is cool to be a diva on set."

What do you absolutely love from fashion closet of Empire?
"Tiana wore this really cool jumpsuit from a brand called Sea and I really, really want it. I have been asking our wardrobe department for it because I really want it!"

What is your favorite song that you sang on the show?
"The one with the whole family: “You Are So Beautiful.” We all had our own verses, which was really fun to me. That was my favorite moment of the show."

What can we expect from the new season of Empire?
"More craziness and, I would have to say, Lucius controlling things, even though he is in jail. Isn’t that crazy?

Will Tiana stay with Empire?
"Tiana is playing chess right now. She is pulling everyone’s strings, whatever works for her that is going to get her to the top, that is what she is going to do."

How is Bryshere Y. Gray, aka Yazz, off screen?
"Yazz is fun but he is very chill. He’s very modest. I would have to say he is one of the chill ones on set."

Will the next season keep viewers guessing?
"I think so. Walking into it this season is going to be a lot different from the Tiana in last season. So when you first see Tiana in this season, she is a lot more powerful and confident."

What is Taraji P. Henson, who plays Cookie, like off screen?
"Taraji is very much like her character, but she is like Aunt Taraji. She cares for all of us and loves all of us. But she is a lot like her character—she is loud and funny. Both her and Terrance are hilarious on set."

Who was your favorite special guest on the show?
"Tasha Smith. When I first met her, she was so nice and so humble. Actually, she is like my big sister now. I go to her acting classes that she has in L.A. and she is probably one of the closest guest stars ever on the show to me."

Who is your favorite person to sing with?
"Probably Yazz on the show. All of our singing moments were really fun and they are really like music videos in real life, which you guys have seen, so it was fun."

Would you ever do a duet with Jessie?
"Yes! I am dying to do a duet with Jessie. That is one of the people I really want to collaborate with on the show. I feel like we would make a very beautiful song."

Can you tell us about your album coming out?
"I have an EP mix tape coming out and it is completely free. That is what I wanted for my fans. I wanted them to know more about my sound, and offering it to them for free is the best way possible. You have already heard my voice as Tiana on the show so you know where I am coming from. I think it will be a cool segway into my own music. I think it is time and a lot of people are ready."

What is your music style?
"My music style is R&B pop. That is the genre that I would consider it."

If you could play another character on Empire, who would it be?
"I would like to play Anika. She is feisty but she plays her cards well."

Your hair is amazing. What do you use?
"Today we wanded it. It is a different curl. It’s more of a spiral loose curl than I usually wear. We keep a lot of moisturizers in my hair because we are constantly doing it for all of these different looks to make sure it is healthy."

Who is your favorite artist past and present?
"Past favorite artist, I would have to say Aliyah and Tupac. Present I would have to say, right now, I am really feeling Kehlani and Chris Brown—always Chris Brown."

What skin products do you use?
"I keep it minimum on the skin products. My skin is really sensitive. I use Dove and Jergens moisturizer, and Cetaphil. I can’t really get into a lot of facial products because they seem to be too strong for my face."

What is your fashion must-have?
"I would have to say some type of loose-fitting item. Today I wore a big jean jacket, but today we wanted to show Tiana-ish styles. I like boyfriend jeans, a loose jacket, or a cardigan—something that I feel comfortable in."

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