Spread across a grand piano, Miss Lawrence belted out Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" to Jussie Smollett's character Jamal in his expansive – if temporary – office atop Empire Entertainment. (Watch above) The extended cameo provided an acting debut for Miss Lawrence, who turned a chance meeting years ago with Lee Daniels – the gay director and co-creator of the show – into an appearance on the Season 2 kickoff of the Fox blockbuster.
When did it hit you that this was a really big deal?
Then I got the script and I knew it was real, real. I’m looking at the script and the titles says “Empire” and Miss Lawrence is on the cover. Then you see the names of all these stellar actors, actresses and directors like Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Chris Rock, Andre Leon Talley, Mariah Carey — then you see my name and I’m like “oh my goodness.” I had a real “mama I made it moment.”
What did you do to prepare for your role?
Now when I say prepare, I mean in the sense that I’m eating properly, I’m not bloated, that I’m going over my lines 100,000 different ways, 100,000 times — you know, making sure that I’m not consuming too much alcohol or being around smoke that could affect your vocal ability — all that type of stuff. Just staying focused and thinking about all the possibilities that may happen when I got to set, because I had never been on a set like that before.
The scene that features Miss Lawrence has him there to discuss presenting an award to Jamal at a GLAAD event. It serves as a reminder that Jamal still struggles with being gay as the flamboyant Miss Lawrence unnerves him.
When Miss Lawrence suggests he and Jamal sing a duet after presenting the award, Jamal dismisses it: "Oh Becky, let's think about that."
Miss Lawrence was having none of that. "Don't be shady. It'll be fun," he said.
Miss Lawrence, a hair stylist in Atlanta, parlayed a recurring guest spot as a gay bestie on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" into the Bravo spinoff "Fashion Queens" with another gay bestie from RHOA, Derek J. The pair also cruised around Atlanta in a convertible for an hour-long, over-the-top gay preview of the RHOA season in November.
Some people have felt like some of the women of Real Housewives of Atlanta are unconsciously homophobic — Nene saying "Queen," Porsha getting caught with her anti-gay video a couple years ago and Marlo saying "f****t.” Are people being too critical or is there some unconscious homophobia?
I left the Housewives of Atlanta for that very reason — well, that’s one of the reasons that I left. We don't hold a lot of women accountable for culture appropriation. They love to borrow from the culture, steal intellectual property from the gay community, and most of them don't give back. The first time an inflammatory situation arises the first thing that comes out of their mouth is "queen” or the whole f-bomb. The one episode where Kenya [Moore]'s friend got beat up at Nene's party, no one was held accountable, there was no real apology put in place. I knew then that was not a place to occupy my time. I knew that there’s no way I can call myself a social activist and be a real activist for my community on that show. I'm not angry with them; I just think they need to be educated. At some point, we as a community have to make them respect us. It saddens me that most gay prides, especially Black gay pride, when they want to book celebrities, you look on the flyers, there’s a Porsha Williams on the flyer, Nene Leakes or Marlo Hampton. What exactly have they done for our community? We don't hold them accountable.
Did you ever feel like you were an accessory to these straight women on Atlanta Housewives?
Absolutely! Not everybody, I have genuine friendships with some of the girls, but I do know that most of it came out of convenience. Most of it came out of being the token gay. The go-to person, “Oh, I need a new word to say, I need some gay slang! How do I say, ‘Yaasss’?” All of that type of stuff. When you know better, you do better. With me, I'm moving in a different direction just with who I am. So I'm still friends with all the girls and I love them dearly. They'll do well.