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Empire’s Jussie Smollett attacked in Chicago (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Prayers up for Empire star and recording artist Jussie Smollett. The triple threat performer was attacked earlier today in Chicago.

According to TOOFAB, Smollett was jumped by two white males wearing ski masks after getting food from a Subway restaurant. “Aren’t you that f—ot ‘Empire’ n—-?” is what the attackers reportedly said before hitting him. They even wrapped a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him. The men left the scene reportedly yelling, “This is MAGA country.” Jussie eventually took himself to a hospital where he was later discharged.

It is also being reported by ThatGrapeJuice.Net that a letter was recently sent to Fox Studios in Chicago, where Empire is currently filming with threats towards the actor. “You will die black f—,” says the letter that also includes a gun and a person hanging from a tree.

Below is an official statement from Fox regarding Jussie’s senseless attack:

RC will keep you posted as this continues to develop. It is our prayer that he recovers soon and that the attackers are brought to justice.

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com and Instagram/FOX

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RC Exclusive - Ent

First Look at Alfre Woodard as Cookie’s Mama On ‘Empire’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

FOX has released a sneak peek of this week’s episode of Empire featuring award winning TV and film actress Alfre Woodard as Cookie’s mama Renee. In February, RC  reported that Woodard and Taraji P. Henson would be reuniting again as mother and daughter for the show.

If you have been keeping up with the current episodes, Cookie has been dealing with a lot including her checkered past and time behind bars. In last week’s episode, she received a surprise visit from a former cell mate (played by Henson’s real-life best friend Ptosha Storey) regarding her “freinemy” Poundcake (played by Tony nominated Broadway actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

Cookie also recently suffered a heart attack which prompted Lucious ( Terrence Howard) to call upon her sisters—Candace (Vivica A. Fox) and Carol (Tasha Smith). It was only a matter of time before “mama” would eventually enter the picture.

Check out the clip below of Renee handling Cookie as only she can:

Empire airs at 8 p.m. EST on FOX

Photo Credit: YouTube.com/Empire

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RC Exclusive - Ent

Alfre Woodard to play Taraji P. Henson’s mother on ‘Empire’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Award winning actress Alfre Woodard has been tapped to play Taraji P. Henson‘s mother in the popular Fox series, EMPIRE. Henson posted the exciting news on her Instagram page on Friday evening featuring a photo of her with Woodard.

“Meet #Cookie ‘s momma!!!! Wooooohooooo I Love working with this woman!!!! Who remembers the movie Queen #AlfreWoodard first played my mother in?!?! 💋💋💋 #Repost @empirefox,” said Henson.

Henson hinted a few years ago that she wanted Motown singing legend Diana Ross to play her mother and Ross’ Lady Sings the Blues/Mahogany co-star Billy Dee Williams to play her father.

This is the second time Henson and Woodard have played mother and daughter. The two appeared together in Tyler Perry’s The Family that Preys.

EMPIRE returns to Fox on March 28.

Stay tuned…

Photo Credit: Instagram/Taraji P. Henson

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RC Exclusive - Ent RC Exclusive - Fashion RC Exclusive - Music Rising - Ent Rising - Fashion Rising - Music

Serayah covers SHEEN + becomes face of Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Empire starlet and rising vocalist Serayah covers the newest edition of SHEEN Magazine. The triple threat performer shares with readers the importance of being patient and trusting the process.

“I’ve learned that a no is nothing, and that is was a part of the process, and that my yes was coming,” says Serayah, reflecting on her humble beginnings in the entertainment industry. “Embrace your no because your yes IS coming.”

In addition to her role on Empire, Serayah is now the new face of Madonna‘s Material Girl 2018 Spring Campaign.

“I’m excited to be the face of Material Girl because of everything she stands for,” said Serayah to PEOPLE. “A Material Girl is edgy, fierce and owns who she is, and she’s guaranteed to look cool in anything and everything she puts on.”

The fashion brand was launched in 2010 by the music icon and her daughter Lourdes Leon and is used to embrace female empowerment through bold colors, floral designs, and edgy silhouettes. Past brand ambassadors have included Rita Ora and Zendaya.

SHEEN featuring Serayah hits newsstands on February 27!

Photo Credits: SHEEN Magazine

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RC Exclusive - Fashion RC Exclusive - Music Rising - Fashion Rising - Music

Empire’s Jussie Smollett releases new single ‘Freedom’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out the debut single from Jussie Smollett. The song is titled “Freedom” and was released on this past Friday (January 5).  According to the “Empire” star, this is just a taste of what fans can expect from his upcoming solo project SumOfMyMusic. The highly anticipated album debuts on March 2.

In addition to premiering the song, Smollett also released some pretty cool black and white images of himself shot by acclaimed photographer—Tarrice Love.

Check them out below and tell us what you think about the new single.

Photo Credits: Tarrice Love + Keoni Marcelo

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RC Exclusive - Ent

First Look at Nicole Ari Parker on Fox’s ‘EMPIRE’ [PHOTO]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Lee Daniels‘ is adding more star power to his Fox series “EMPIRE.” Award-winning TV, film and stage actress Nicole Ari Parker will have a recurring role opposite Forest Whitaker.

According to BF, Parker will star as Giselle Barker, the fabulous ex-wife of Eddie Barker, played by Whitaker. She will debut during Wednesday night’s mid-season finale, “Slave to Memory.”

Season 4 has seen Lucious (Terrence Howard) battling to regain his physical and mental faculties after the explosion and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) with her own challenges, revisiting her traumatic 17 years in prison in a series of flashbacks. With Lucious coming back, Eddie is concluding his tenure at Empire but when one never knows if he can easily let go of the power he just received.

Parker most recently starred in TV One’s original movie, “Downsized” as well as ABC’s “Time After Time.” Look for her to also appear in the upcoming film “Headshop” starring Evan Ross, Loretta Devine, Deon Cole, Marla Gibbs, Kimberly Elise and Michael Jai White.

Photo Credits: Fox

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RC Exclusive - Ent Renegade

Empire’s Grace Byers applauds her husband Trai Byers for explosive episode (VIDEO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

“Empire” starlet Grace Byers congratulated her husband and co-star Trai Byers on social media this week for acting his ass off in this week’s emotional episode.  Like many of you, I was in disbelief when it was revealed that Byer’s character—Andre—and his relationship with Teyonah Parris‘ character—Pamela Rose—was a figment of his imagination and never existed at all. It was a definitely plot twist I never saw coming and had me completely captivated and devastated at the same time. It’s just one of the many scenes Lee Daniels has used on the popular series to bring about the awareness of mental illness in the Black community.

Lee or Trai deserve an Emmy or Golden Globe Award this season for that amazing performance/episode.  Check out “The Reconstruction of Pamela Rose” below and don’t forget to tune into “Empire” this Wednesday at 8 p.m. on FOX.

Photo Credits: Instagram/Trai Byers and LadyGraceByers

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RC Exclusive - Ent RC Exclusive - Fashion Renegade

Empire’s Gabourey Sidibe is a Glam Doll for #REFINERY29 [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Check out these A-MAZ-ING new images of Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe for REFINERY29. The “Empire” star is giving us all types of dramatic poses in a new fashion spread featuring looks by Christian Siriano and more. The New York City native also talks about her journey so far as full-figured African-American woman in Hollywood and why Black girls truly rock!

“I think being a Black woman today is such a huge joy,” she gushes. “I’m so proud of myself and I have so many beautiful Black women friends who I’m so proud of and who are so joyous.”


Sidibe has just directed her first independent film, “The Tale of Four” and was inspired by Nina Simone‘s iconic tune, “Four Women.” She also opens up about rewriting her history after being told by her mother that she never wanted a daughter because girls have it hard.

“I know this sounds harsh and fucked up, but what it set up for me as a child was that being a Black woman was not going to be easy. That’s what my mom told me. She said she never wanted to have a daughter because girls have a really hard life. Those were the first lessons I got about being a Black woman. Today, as an adult, I would really like to erase that narrative from my life.”

Click here to read the entire interview and see more great images of Gabby!

Photo Credits: REFINERY29

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Recap

#UPFRONT attends ESSENCE Festival + Radio Row + Premieres + More

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

It gives me great pleasure to share my amazing coverage of the 2017 ESSENCE Festival. My arts and entertainment radio magazine—UPFRONT—was there to capture all of the sights and sounds of this year’s festivities as part of Radio Row.  My four-day weekend began on Thursday (June 29) with a special meet & greet + reception with the cast of the indie film, “STEP.”

“STEP” is the true-life story of a girls’ high-school step dance team in Baltimore, whose teachers, counselors, coaches and families, help them achieve their dreams of going off to college. It also takes viewers into the personal lives of three of the dancers— Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger, Tayla Solomon—and their coach, Gari McIntyre.  The film has received rave reviews and was the winner of the Documentary Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

On Friday (June 30) #UPFRONT began its three day stint on Radio Row. It is one of three areas that celebrity attendees can meet press and conduct interviews. I was truly blessed to have interviewed so many people including cast members from the hugely popular “Orange Is The New Black,” TNT’s new breakout series, “Claws,”  FOX’s “Empire and Star.” I also got a chance to chat with the cast of FX’s “Snowfall” and the new series “The Mayor” and “Ghosted.”

Music divas CeCe Winans, Anita Wilson and Chanté Moore stopped by the table to discuss their new projects. Winans album, Let Them Fall In Love has been killing the gospel charts and is her best work to date. Wilson talked about covering the classic jazz tune “Here’s To Life” for her new album and Moore dished about her album, Rise of the Pheonix and recording her first Christmas CD this fall.

#UPFRONT also chatted with actress and singer Lil Mama (who is going by her real name Niatia) as well as celebrity stylists Mushiya Tshikuka, Razor Chic of Atlanta and Melvin Styles. However, the highlight of Radio Row was talking to New Thought Leader, Life Coach and TV Personality—Iyanla Vanzant. She opened up about her last season + why she continues to participate in the ESSENCE Festival. She also talked about what she has learned personally from doing her award winning show, “Iyanla Fix My Life.”

“What I’ve learned personally is how powerful God is. As Black people were taught, ‘don’t tell your business in the street.’ (LOL) But when there’s a call on someone’s life to serve God, these people are showing up in amazing ways. I’ve also learned how difficult a healing journey can be. People don’t want to suffer. They don’t want to hurt. They don’t want to destroy themselves. But if they don’t have the tools and the information to heal, that’s what they do. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time. I’m human. I can have my time off…my days off and I don’t have to be who people expect me to be.”

In addition to Radio Row, #UPFRONT was able to attend and capture images from the night time concerts. This year’s ESSENCE Festival theme was all about female empowerment, sisterhood and “staying woke” and the entertainers who performed were true reflections of that. Friday’s show included Rhonda Ross, India.Arie, John Legend and the Queen of Motown—DIANA ROSS.

This was Miss Ross’ first time appearing at the Festival since its inception in 1995 and she didn’t disappoint. Other performances included Jazmine Sullivan, Jill Scott, Chaka Khan, Solange, Monica, Lalah Hathaway, Remy Ma, Xscape, Master P, Chance the Rapper and Mary J. Blige.

Other highlights throughout the weekend included the NOLA premieres of “Girls Trip” featuring Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish. FX also screened its new drama, “Snowfall” which included appearances by the show’s cast + the creator and award winning director John Singleton. #UPFRONT also captured images of the casts from “Detroit,” OWN’s “Greenleaf” and “Queen Sugar” + Ava DuVernay and the “WOKE Women Awards.”

See all of the rest of the images below and click here to listen to the first of two radio shows featuring exclusive coverage of the ESSENCE Festival:

The Cast of “STEP”

Ray Cornelius on Radio Row

John Singleton and Damson Idris from FX’s “Snowfall”

Ray Cornelius with “Snowfall” actors Isaiah John + Malcolm M. Mays

“Claws” stars Niecy Nash + Karrueche Tran

+ showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois

“Claws” cast with Ray Cornelius + UPFRONT Talent Producer Jess Manning

ESSENCE talking to “Black Panther” actress Letitia Wright 

Ray Cornelius with FANDANGO Correspondent Chris Witherspoon

“She’s Gotta Have It” actress DeWanda Wise 

Ray Cornelius with “Empire” stars Ta’Rhonda Jones and Bryshere Y. Gray 

India.Arie

John Legend 

John Legend

John Legend 

DIANA ROSS

Ray Cornelius watching DIANA ROSS 

Ray Cornelius with the cast of “Detroit” – Jacob Latimore, Nathan Davis Jr., Algee Smith, Ephraim Sykes,  Joseph David-Jones

“The Haves and the Have Nots” Tyler Lepley,

Angela Robinson and Gavin Houston

Ava DuVernay during the “WOKE Women Awards” 

Jazmine Sullivan 

Tank + Angel Love + Angel Saunders

on the red carpet of the “Snowfall” NOLA Premiere

Remy Ma performing with her husband and rapper Papoose

Lalah Hathaway

Ray Cornelius with Iyanla Vanzant 

CeCe Winans talking about her new album, Let Them Fall In Love 

Ray Cornelius with CeCe Winans 

Ray Cornelius with Anita Wilson 

Ray Cornelius greeting “cousin” Chanté Moore

Ray Cornelius with Chanté Moore

Ray Cornelius interviewing Miss Lawrence of “STAR”

Ryan Destiny of “STAR”

Ray Cornelius with Miss Lawrence 

Issa Rae, Kofi Soriboe and Larenz Tate at “Girls Trip” NOLA Premiere

Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith at “Girls Trip” NOLA Premiere

Ray Cornelius with the cast of “The Mayor” – Brandon Michael Hall, Yvette Nicole Brown and show creator Jeremy Bronson

Ray Cornelius with Nicci Gilbert 

XSCAPE after their Super Lounge performance

Elle Varner

SHAGGY

Ray Cornelius with Craig Robinson of “Ghosted”

Ray Cornelius with Melvin Styles and Razor Chic of Atlanta 

Mushiya Tshikuka talking to #UPFRONT

Ava DuVernay with the cast of “Queen Sugar”

Ray Cornelius with “Snowfall” actor Damson Idris 

Chanté Moore with June’s Diary

Ray Cornelius with Common 

Ray Cornelius with Big Freedia 

Shirley Jones of The Jones Girls 

Ray Cornelius with “Insecure” actress Yvonne Orji

Ray Cornelius with Tamika D. Mallory

Ray Cornelius with the fabulous Candace Ledbetter

Ray Cornelius with “Snowfall” actors Isaiah John + Malcolm M. Mays

Common with cast of “Detroit” – Nathan Davis Jr.,

Jacob Latimore and Joseph David-Jones

THANK YOU ESSENCE FESTIVAL AND SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

Photo Credits: RayCornelius and Mark Angel for RayCornelius.com

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RC Exclusive - Ent

WATCH trailer for ‘Canal Street’ feat. Empire’s Yazz (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

“Empire” star Bryshere Y. Gray aka Yazz is expanding his acting resume by starring in the new independent film, “Canal Street.” It opens in theaters on February 1, 2018.

According to the film’s website, “Canal Street” is a modern-day thriller telling the story of a teen, Kholi Styles, trying to get by in an unwelcoming new world. After the mysterious death of a classmate, all eyes fall on Kholi, the new kid at his high school. It’s up to his father, Jackie Styles, an up-and-coming lawyer from the slums of Chicago, to defend his son in court and battle an outraged public before time runs out. Jackie fights to keep his faith and prove his son is not the monster the world has made him out to be.

Rounding out the “Canal Street” cast is Mykelti Williamson, Lance Reddick, Michael Beach, Harry Lennix, Mekhi Phifer, Jamie Hector, Woody McClain and more. The film is directed by Rhyan LaMarr.

Watch the teaser trailer below:

Photo Credit: Facebook/Canal Street Movie

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RC Exclusive - Ent

‘Cookie & Nem’ about to ‘Set It Off’ in New ‘Empire’ Clip (VIDEO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Cookie and her sisters—Carol and Candace—are stepping into Leviticus/Las Vegas like their about to “set it off” in this new clip from tomorrow night’s episode of  “EMPIRE.”

Taraji P. Henson, Tasha Smith and Vivica A. Fox are giving fans of the show major “girl group glam” as they try to intercept Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Juliana’s (Nia Long) plans to expand the Lyon brand in the Sin City. I’m not sure what’s about to go down but from the looks of their entrance and those cocktails in their hands, it is going to be #EPIC!

Take a look below and watch #Empire at 9 p.m. on FOX:

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RC Exclusive - Ent

TV One to air ‘Empire’ Season 3 Marathon on 3/19 (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

TV One will celebrate the blockbuster drama “Empire” with a third season marathon on Sunday, March 19, beginning at 2 p.m. ET, in preparation for the show’s highly-anticipated mid-season return on Wednesday, March 22 at 9 p.m. ET / PT on FOX.

“With amazing music, incredible plot twists and top-rated guest appearances, TV One’s EMPIRE marathon is a great opportunity for viewers to catch the fever all over again or experience the phenomenon for the very first time,” said TV One President Brad Siegel. “It’s time to grab your popcorn and get comfortable on the couch as these dynamic characters battle to reign supreme.”

Beginning Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, viewers can binge-watch all 9 episodes of season 3 back-to-back and catch up with Cookie, Lucious and the rest of the clan, starring Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard and Academy Award and Emmy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson.

The drama returns in Season Three, as the battle continues for the Soul of Empire. Each member of the Lyon family must cope with the events that were set in motion in the Season Two finale. Lucious pursues his music legacy with his streaming service, while also clashing with his half-brother, Tariq (Morocco Omari), who is leading a federal task force investigating him. Cookie aims to start over, in pursuit of her own happiness – a series of flashbacks reveal how Loretha Holloway became Cookie Lyon and how Cookie met Lucious. Meanwhile, the Lyon brothers – Andre, Jamal and Hakeem – all are determined to overcome the events of last season and move on, but the choices they face will become a battle for the soul of the Lyon family.

Check out the promo below:

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RC Exclusive - Ent

Lee Daniels receives star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Congratulations goes out to “EMPIRE” creator and the “Original Big Daddy” Lee Daniels. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Friday afternoon in California.

Daniels was recognized for his outstanding contributions to entertainment and is the visionary behind such hit films as “Precious,” “Monster’s Ball,” “The PaperBoy,” “The Woodsman” “Shadowboxer” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”  Two of his “Empire” stars were in attendance and helped present and unveil the star including Jussie Smollett and Gabourey Sidibe. Queen Latifah was also in attendance and is playing one of the leads in his upcoming FOX drama “STAR.”

In addition to his successful film career, Daniels is an advocate, philanthropist, a longtime LGBT activist, and a supporter of many charitable organizations. He sits on numerous boards including Ghetto Film School, a non-profit which helps to educate, develop, and celebrate the next generation of great American storytellers.

Check out the actual ceremony below:

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Photo Credits: Facebook/William Leecan

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RC Exclusive - Music

‘Taraji’s White Hot Holidays’ to feature Smokey Robinson, Ne-Yo, Andra Day & more

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Smokey Robinson, Ne-Yo and Andra Day are just a few of the big name acts who will join Taraji P. Henson for “Taraji’s White Hot Holidays.”  The Oscar nominated actress and star of “Empire” is back for another year to spread some holiday cheer, goodwill and Christmas magic.

Just like last year’s show, “White Hot Holidays” will feature soul-stirring renditions of some of our favorite holiday classics, as well as some comedy and more. Other acts include Tyrese Gibson, Candice Boyd, October London, along with her “Empire” cast members Jussie Smollett and Taye Diggs.

Also scheduled to appear are Pharrell Williams, Missy Elliott, Alicia Keys, Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC, Snoop Dogg, TLC, Tyler Perry and Terry Crews.

Look for Taraji to star in this holiday season’s highly anticipated “Hidden Figures.” It opens in theaters on December 25 and also stars Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

“Taraji’s White Hot Holidays” airs on Thursday, December 8 at 8 p.m. on FOX!

Photo Credit: FOX