In case you didn’t know, Serayah McNeill is one cool chick.
Although the actress is most known for her role as Tiana Brown, an emerging pop star with Rihanna-inspired Caribbean tracks and a mean dutty whine on FOX’s hit series Empire, off-screen Serayah is just a 21-year-old coming into her own and adjusting to fame.
xoNecole recently caught up with the LA native, and she dished out some cool fun facts that sealed the deal –she’s our new best friend in our heads. Here’s what we learned:
She embraces her curls:
“My hair has always been curly, I started to straighten it because I didn’t like how big it was. On the show, Lee wanted my hair big and curly every episode, it helped me accept myself and who I am in my natural state. It was really cool to be able to have my character on the show have natural hair.”
As far as auditioning…
“I don’t want to fall into the pressures of looking a certain way or being a certain size. For example, I’ve always wanted to be taller. But to be in this industry, I’ve had to accept every aspect of myself including the fact that I’m short! It is what it is and I’ll get the roles that are meant for me.”
She and her mom are BFF Goals:
“My mom is my best friend, we talk about everything. She’s my reality check. She definitely talks to me from a different perspective–from the outside looking in. She tells me how things really are and at the end of the day, she’s usually right!”
Her circle of friends is changing:
“To finally be in the position that I’m in and to see people that have changed around me is an unveiling process. I have started to realize that certain people I’ve known [before Empire], as well as family, have began to act weird or have said weird things. It’s all apart of figuring out who I am at this stage because I have had to question people’s motives. Why do they want to be around me? Are they sincere? Why do they want to be my friend? Unfortunately, that does cross my mind. But I try to keep an open mind and give everyone a clean slate until something goes wrong, but it can be tough.”
She’s a Daddy’s girl:
“My dad isn’t very outspoken so, when we talk about anything like relationships, it gets a little weird. He’s definitely led by example. He taught me to be respected. In talking to him about certain boyfriends I had in high school, he would say, ‘You don’t need that…you’re this type of woman.’
“I think that type of advice is best if possible to come from your father.”
She’s nothing like her character Tiana:
“Tiana, oh God, she’s definitely nothing like me when it comes to relationships. She values money and her career a lot more than her dignity. I don’t think Empire has given much background on Tiana and why she makes certain decisions as of yet. She’s definitely taught me to stay focused and just do me.”
Life before the fame:
“I was going to community college majoring in theatre, working at H&M, and modeling on the side as well as singing and dancing. I was booking some commericals, but I really wanted to be on a TV show. I wrote that down on my vision board, and I really started to hone in and focus in on what I really wanted to do. I’m very spiritual, and I think my belief and God as well as always putting good energy into the world has made a difference. Not giving up is a main factor for anything you want. You can’t be so hard on yourself. I also have a great support system of people that love me and keep me reassured and motivated. Even when I didn’t see anything happening it could be so frustrating.
“That’s also applicable to right now and what I want for my future, everything is still a process, there are lot of things I’m working towards that I won’t give up on.”
Vision boards help shape her life:
“I’m still auditioning for a couple movie roles that are now on my vision board. I pray that if it’s God’s will that I book a certain role, than it’s already mine. I try to put everything I have into the roles I’m auditioning for. I do get attached to the character I’m studying prior to the audition, so it still hurts not to book a role, but it could be for a variety of reasons, including a scheduling conflict with Empire. Whatever’s next for me, it’s going to be amazing and that’s what I keep at the forefront of my mind.”
She’s learned the most on set from…
“Terrence Howard. He has a very giving spirit. When I first met him, during our lunch break, I happened to sit next to him. He, my mom, and I had a great conversation. He’s very intellectual. We were speaking recently and he’s the complete opposite of his character, Lucious Lyon. In actuality, he’s not only very encouraging, but sincere.”
She’s most proud of…
“In addition to Empire, meeting people that I admire that are fans of mine has been amazing. Patti Labelle and Jennifer Hudson have given me compliments, and that has meant so much to me. No matter how many insecurities I have or how hard I am on myself, there are people that see and appreciate my work; I’ll always remember those moments.
“As well as having Terrence Howard and Malik Yoba help me with my lines and encourage me to standout and do my best, I’m also blessed for the opportunities I’ve had to perform in front of 50,000 people [onstage with Taylor Swift]. I never would have imagined doing something like that. The energy from that is an out of body experience. I can understand how artists can be on the road for months at a time doing the same exact show but feeling like it’s something new every time. Those moments are all so inspiring and have been the highlights of my year.”
Images via Esquire