Throughout the course of his 15-year-long career, Lee Daniels has become a celebrated director, producer, father, and out gay man. His has not only earned numerous Academy Award nominations, but also many accolades from the LGBTQ community for his continued work in Hollywood and on TV.
During the Family Equality Council’s 10th annual Night at the Pier in New York City -- to honor LGBTQ parents and allies striving for family equality -- Daniels was awarded as a gay parent of twins. Both Taraji P. Henson and Jussie Smollett -- following a celebrated appearance at Fox’s upfront presentation of Empire -- surprised the audience at the event by paying tribute to the co-creator of their hit series.
"I now know what it means to have an amazing, gay father," Smollett -- who recently came out during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show -- said while introducing the director.
"He's made me more of a truthful man," he added.
Henson, who plays Cookie -- the mother of the openly gay R&B prodigy played by Smollett -- also sang Daniels’ praises.
“I want to thank you, Lee, for using your talent for changing lives and allowing people to be who they are," she said, adding that the show “can be a voice for people who don't have a voice.”
When accepting his award, Daniels brought up his mother, former partner Billy Hopkins, who he was with when he first became a father, current partner Jahil Fisher, and son Liam to share in the celebration.
"I was not saving them, they were saving me," Daniels said of adopting his incarcerated brother’s two kids, Clara and Liam, while still addicted to drugs. "Since then I've been sober."
The family affair was a joyous one. Daniels appeared giddy as he accepted his honor from the organization, no doubt also excited about the news that Empire had been expanded from 12 to 18 episodes.
It was also announced that Chris Rock and Alicia Keys would be among the show’s upcoming guest stars. Watch the video to get more details about Empire’s second season: