If I can help someone else feel less alone, no matter what they’re going through, I’m happy to have that opportunity…”—Jussie Smollett, ESSENCE

Empire stars Jussie Smollett (Jamal), Trai Byers (Andre), Bryshere Gray (Hakeem) are covering the June issue of ESSENCE. The fictional brothers talk art, life, working out, LGBT and of course Empire.

Check out some snippets:

Jussie Smollet (Jamal) on reaching out to Lee Daniels on social media: “I jumped on Instagram and direct-messaged Lee and said, ‘Sir, I know you get this all the time, but I’m a singer, actor, dancer, songwriter and musician. I am Jamal Lyon in more ways than one.'”

Bryshere “Yazz” Gray (Hakeem) on mentoring: “I would hear things like, ‘My dad was never in my life…’ and my response was, ‘My dad was never in my life…Don’t feel like you don’t matter.'”

Trai Byers (Andre) on working out: “I work out for two reasons: one, because I’m an actor and two, because I’m somebody’s [future] husband. I want to be prepared for the woman God has for me.”


This year, the world was introduced to FOX’s runaway hit Empire and the Lyon family—led by a diabolical patriarch and a just-released ex-con matriarch. Season one’s finale left 16.7 million viewers hanging by a thread. Fans eagerly tuned in each week to watch the fictional Lyon brothers—Trai Byers (Andre), Jussie Smollett (Jamal) and Bryshere “Yazz” Gray (Hakeem)—bear the weight of their parents’ sins while trying to carve out identities of their own. Weeks before filming began for the next season, ESSENCE chatted with TV’s baddest brothers about life, art and success.

ESSENCE’s June “Vacation Issue” hits newsstands on Friday, 5/15. For more on this month’s issue—and all FOUR covers!—please visit ESSENCE.com.

Photo Credit: Greg Lotus/Essence

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