Before the world was introduced to Serayah’s coquettish on-screen persona Tiana Brown on Fox’s megahit show, Empire, the actress/R&B singer was at a crossroads. She and her mother (now manager) experienced a season of homelessness that served as the precipice of her realizing her dreams. “You can get weary and feel like giving up, but I had no lower to go,” Serayah tells xoNecole exclusively. “I could only go up [from there]. I decided within myself that this was not going to be [my] life anymore.”
When the opportunity came for her to audition for Empire, Serayah knew that it was now or never. And as fate would have it, landing the breakout role on the show would not only allow her to overcome her hardships but serve as the catalyst to manifesting her dreams of making it in the entertainment industry and penning her perspective into her art.
Serayah, best describes her six-season run on Empire as, “super cool, glamorous college.” After her six-year run on the show, Serayah decided to mark “the end of an era” with a bold, platinum blonde pixie cut, shedding her girlish charm in favor of fully embodying the multi-hyphenate woman she’s becoming.
Breaking out as an R&B songstress meant tapping into who Serayah, the artist, declared herself to be. In her highly-anticipated new single, "P.O.V.," Serayah invites her fans and listeners into her real life, to show that even the most challenging experiences can be an opportunity for growth and refined perspective. From shifts within her inner circle, her blooming love life, and everyday challenges of being a public figure, "P.O.V." is the essence of Serayah’s journey through her words, in her way.
“Music has helped me [find perspective] before. I always want to be true to the narrative in the space that I'm in; it’s the transparency through music. I'm not necessarily chasing a sound or chasing a social media platform. I want art to imitate life,” she tells xoNecole. “That’s why I love R&B, blues, and jazz because it was always authentic to what was going on in that time and era. I want to continue to push that side of music that really encapsulates a time and a space. I want my music to feel like that.”
"I'm not necessarily chasing a sound or chasing a social media platform. I want art to imitate life."
Serayah is creating from a space that is true to her intuition by living and learning through trial and error. While she’s flattered to be “#goals” to her fans, what she hopes to get across through her music is that she’s just figuring it out. “I want people to know where I come from and to know my struggles. I want to be an example for those who admire me, but I don’t want them to think that all things that glitter are gold.” She continues, “The prettiest, most expensive diamonds had to go through pressure. It’s okay to have ups and downs, I want to be a realistic role model.”
Allow this to be your re-introduction to Serayah.
xoNecole: What does your new single "P.O.V." mean to you as it relates to the direction you look to take musically?
Serayah: When I recorded the record, I always knew that it would have to be a part of a body of work — an EP or an album — because it's such a story and I just feel like a lot of people can relate to what I'm talking about. "P.O.V." encapsulates my early life, about struggling, finally getting a piece of success, and earning money I've never had before. My friends are changing, I’m losing friendships, some of my family members are acting weird now; it's like success brings different things out of the circle of people around you. And obviously, also my romantic feelings. "P.O.V." is the point of view of early life up until like 21 [years old]. I used this time to leave everything there and I'm moving past it.
xoNecole: Sometimes when it comes to new artists, the first debut project can come with some pressures. Have you had any hesitations about releasing new music and how do you overcome those feelings?
S: Oh my God, yes! I’ve had this song for like two years. Maybe three? I mean, we're artists and we're sensitive. It's literally the most vulnerable thing you can do is say, ‘hey, here's what I think is cool, this is what I put all my emotions into, and I hope you guys like it.’ It's nerve-racking. But I think for me, it's just, like, making sure that I'm 100% into it. I've overthought some records before but I'm putting those out now; I’m past that. I’m sure there'll be another project or another single where I'm overthinking it as well. I just feel like it's a part of the creative process; you may overthink sometimes.
xoNecole: You and your boo, Jacob Latimore, have been together for some years now, and the girls want to know, what's the secret? What do you think has been the key component to having a thriving relationship?
S: No secrets, sis! I just really think that things should be extremely simple. I feel like, dating, in general, is a little complicated, but then you add on social media and add on [the fact that] you're celebrities, and it makes it a little more complicated if you let it. [Jacob and I] have had our moments. We talk about everything; how we feel and we're completely transparent. He's so open in that way. He's very warm and nurturing to where he wants to know what's going on with me and how I'm feeling throughout the day, and I appreciate that. That creates a connection to be able to get through things that maybe if I wasn't comfortable, we wouldn't be able to get through it.
And so I think the secret would just be to be transparent and sensitive with each other because we all come from somewhere; we all have triggers and pasts. We have to build up respect for each other, especially as Black men and women. We have to respect each other and be just a little bit more gentle with each other. There's a lot of trauma going on, and you have to understand what that is and everything that plays into it. As you can see, if I'm serious with someone, I'm going into it with everything. Just keep it 100% with each other at all times.
xoNecole: How have you grown in your relationship?
S: It's so important when you are in love or in a relationship with another person that you prioritize your self-love because how you feel about yourself, your life, and your career reflects on you and will bleed into your relationships and how you view them. I've learned to just have self-reflecting moments instead of reacting; if there's something that bothers me, I don't need to say it as soon as it happens, I can take a second, a day, or an hour, and reflect on it myself. Is it me? How am I interpreting the situation and how can I talk to [my partner] without being angry or something? It's helped me just be able to communicate more efficiently and in a healthier way. Communication's everything.
Especially for [me and Jacob]; I haven't seen him in a month. So we have to communicate, we don't have the lifestyle to where we're always gonna just be around each other. We should give our men their flowers too. There’s this big thing going on that says, ‘He needs to buy me Birkins, he needs to buy me this and I'm in the club singing it too, don't get it twisted.' But I really feel like the gem is to celebrate our men and make them feel wanted and appreciated and that they're doing good. They're changing the trajectory for Black men in general. It's just so important for us to think about the overall picture when we talk about Black love.
"It's so important when you are in love or in a relationship with another person that you prioritize your self-love because how you feel about yourself, your life, and your career reflects on you and will bleed into your relationships and how you view them."
xoNecole: You’ve had a lot of rapid growth and life transitions over the years, what advice would you give to someone who’s learning to adjust to a new chapter in their life?
S: I would say: be humble, not modest. Being humble is a great thing and humility goes a long way, apart from being grateful. So when you’re in that transition, bring your confidence and attack your goals head-on. Big places and big blessings are always going to be uncomfortable, the more that you want [in life], the more you’re going to be uncomfortable. As long as you know that you’re never in a place you’re not ready to be in, don’t even worry about the small things. Just focus on the bigger picture and it will all work out.
For more of Serayah, follow her on Instagram @serayah. Her new single, "P.O.V." is now streaming.
Featured image by Sterling Gold