Get the Style Scoop on the Season Finale Looks from Empire’s Costume Designer Rita McGhee
A death, a pregnancy, an arrest, a misdiagnosis, a hostile takeover, and an anointed heir for the Empire throne—was there ever any doubt that the Empire season finale would dish out anything less? FOX’s record-breaking, hip-hop soap opera has been jam-packed with juicy twists and turns in every episode, but the shocking revelations and hundred-watt star power of last night's explosive, over-the-top finale left viewers with their jaws on the floor.
The two-hour event answered a lot of questions, raised some new ones, and featured everything from the accidental murder of Vernon (Malik Yoba) by a pregnant Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), to Lucious (Terrence Howard) naming Jamal (Jussie Smollett) his successor even after we discover that Lucious was misdiagnosed with ALS and is no longer facing imminent death (but is however facing some jail time for the murder of his best friend Bunkie), to Snoop Dogg performing his new song “Peaches and Cream.” The finale’s impressive cameo roster also included performances by Juicy J, Patti LaBelle, Rita Ora, and returning guest star Jennifer Hudson.
Unlike all the other aforementioned guest stars, Hudson is playing neither a successful musician nor an Empire performer. Instead, she is playing the role of Michelle White, Andre’s (Trai Byers) music therapist and a devout Christian who is leading him down a new, spiritual path. Lucious uses Michelle in an attempt to break Andre’s newfound faith and prove that the lure of Lucious Lyons is more enticing the lure of God himself. Lucious offers Michelle a contract with Empire and in a shocking move—she accepts! “Jennifer’s stylist brought in a custom-made, white leather dress (above) for her on-stage performance at Lucious’s concert,” explains Rita McGhee, the costume designer of Empire. “She is a gospel singer and is from the church so she wore a white, flouncy dress to portray her naivety of the industry and her purity…however this sleeveless, short dress is less conservative and reveals more skin than she usually does and the texture of the dress is leather, which shows viewers that she might be able to be part of this world and become a star.”
In an even more shocking move, Boo-Boo Kitty and Cookie agree to team up for a hostile takeover of the Empire—but not without a catfight first! “I put Anika in the red BCBG jumpsuit (above) instead of her usual uniform of a skirt or a dress because those garments can be restrictive…she might need to move fast to dodge a punch or get ready to fight if she is meeting up with Cookie,” laughs McGhee. “When Anika is with Lucious she wears dresses to play on her femininity, but now she is alone and in control of her life. She is ready to get down to business,” McGhee reveals to InStyle. “Also, red is her signature color. She feels strong and powerful when she wears red and definitely needs strength and courage if she’s seeing Cookie.”
Contrastingly, Cookie, who usually looks ready to fight in predatory animal prints, wore a print that reflects their soon-to-be partnership. “The pattern on Cookie’s Elizabeth and James dress (above) reminded me of twigs and trees intertwined with each other, which worked beautifully with the scene since they end up forming a new alliance with each other,” McGhee divulges.
In the final scene, we see that the hostile takeover is in full-effect as Cookie watches Lucious get hauled away by police officers for the murder of her cousin Bunkie. “I picked this gorgeous red lace dress by Galia Lahav (below) for her last look because Cookie has the power now and she is taking over the Empire,” reveals McGhee. “I love the juxtaposition of this dress because the lace is soft and feminine but the red is strong and powerful.”
We can’t wait to see what next season has in store for us—rumors are already buzzing around that Oprah, Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, Denzel Washington and Alicia Keys are set to make appearances!