Jussie Smollett Praises Lee Daniels: 'He's Made Me More of a Truthful Man'

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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

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
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.

WATCH: Jussie Smollett Says 'There's Never Been a Closet That I've Been In'

"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.”

WATCH: Why Cookie Lyon Is the Queen of Primetime

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: