I admit I was late to get on the Empire bandwagon. One Saturday while I was bored at home, I figured I’d binge-watch just to see what everyone was into. And now I’m hooked. It’s like the black version of Dynasty, only grittier and more grandiose in a “We’re moving on up to the East Side” type of way.
What always interested me were the characters and the similarities they share with certain black entertainers in real life. I get it: Lucious could be a version of Diddy, Jay Z or Suge Knight—a music mogul with a checkered past. Got it. But there was always one character who piqued my interest, even though she’s not a major player in the series.
And that’s Tiana.
If you’re not familiar, Tiana (played by Serayah McNeill) is Hakeem Lyon’s (played by Bryshere Gray) on-again, off-again girlfriend. Just to refresh your memory, here’s Tiana on Empire.
When I saw Tiana, the first person who popped into my mind was R&B singer Teyana Taylor. Same style. Same hair. Same shape. Taylor, who became famous with her song “Google Me,” released a new album last year, and here’s her song “Maybe”:
So, just maybe Taylor’s likeness was “borrowed” or used as a basis for Tiana. But hey, what do I know? I just know I’m not the only one who thinks so. Just ask Taylor’s boyfriend, Cleveland Cavalier Iman Shumpert.
Shumpert recently expressed his gripes with Empire. He thinks that not only is his girlfriend’s likeness being used, but so is his own. But here is where I think he’s stretching it. Shumpert tends to think Hakeem is based on him, too—simply because of their ridiculous high-tops.
“I don’t watch that stuff, man,” Shumpert told Northeast Ohio Media Group.
“They’re using my girl’s character, her style, her look, and she’s not getting anything for it,” Shumpert said of Taylor. “They didn’t even change her name. They could have at least let my girl audition for the part instead of stealing her character completely.”
“And come on, man, they’re really using a guy with a flattop like me. Come on. That’s ridiculous. They never called us. We were blindsided. We found out by our family and fans when the show aired.”
Now, if Hakeem were a 6-foot-8-inch basketball player instead of a rapper, then maybe Shumpert could be right about his own image. But no. Unless Shumpert is secretly an aspiring rapper and we don’t know it yet.
Well, look here, apparently he is:
In any event, what does Shumpert plan to do, since he assumes his love life is being copied? Is he going to sue Empire? Or will he sit back and watch the two-hour season finale in suspense next week like the rest of the world? I’m going with the latter.