‘Empire’ Creator Lee Daniels: I Tried to Commit Suicide by Contracting AIDS

Happier Times: Empire creator Lee Daniels poses with his niece and nephew (photo: David Shankbone CC by 3.0)

Happier Times: Lee Daniels poses with his niece and nephew (photo: David Shankbone CC by 3.0)

Lee Daniels, the creative force behind ‘Empire’, almost didn’t make it.  Now, he’s opening up about his struggles as a gay African-American.

One of television’s brightest stars almost ended his own show early.  “AIDS wiped away all of my friends,” Empire creator Lee Daniels recently told the Hollywood Reporter.  “I had no friends… It was terrifying, because we never knew whether you could drink from glasses or what it was. It was the most terrifying thing ever.”

The interview, conducted at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and TV, explored a very dark period of Daniels’ life  “And I didn’t understand why it was that I wasn’t dead, because there were far better souls than me that were going,” Daniels continued, as transcribed by AllHipHop.    “I thought that I needed to go.

“And so I descended into drugs and into sexual bathhouses to die.”

Daniel’s deep valley was worsened by an unsupportive father.  During the speech, Daniels relayed a violent altercation after wearing high heels at home.  “I walked down the stairs with high heels on (when I was a kid), and he put me in the trashcan,” Daniels recalled. “I have no hate in my heart for my father at all. I think that he didn’t understand (homosexuality).”  “I have no hate in my heart for my father at all. I think that he didn’t understand (homosexuality).”

Empire watchers may recall that very seen from the successful series.  Of course, Daniels didn’t have to elaborate to create the difficult interlude.

Daniels dad was a tough, Philadelphia cop who displayed little tolerance for homosexuality.

The violent memory also formed inspiration for Precious, also conceptualized by Daniels.  “I think that’s where Precious came from, because I remember the stench,” Daniels stated, referring to the trashcan.  I remember the dark, the cold, my mother trying to fight, and then me, thinking that I was Aladdin on a carpet escaping.”

“And I think that’s why I so related to Precious. But that was just one of many times.”

Perhaps the best love — and toughest love — came from Daniels’ grandmother.  “My dad told me I was going to be nothing,” Daniels stated. “But my grandmother, she says, ‘Listen, you know, you’re not like all the other guys around here. You are a faggot.'”

I said, ‘What’s that?’ And she says, ‘Don’t worry about it, but you’re going to get used to — people are going to call you that. But you have to remember, as long as you are strong, as long as you are fearless, as long as you are honest, you have nothing to worry about.'”

4 Responses

  1. Michael Cooper

    Well I really don’t have much of a comment except thanks I needed to hear that and I love the show

  2. Dobie

    Nothing to say but thank you for staying on this side of life,you are wanted and needed.

  3. Open mic

    Mr. Daniel. I still thank god for you being created. You have an incredible way of telling a story. I’m sure your grandma and father are proud of the person you have become. I’m so grateful that you are allowed to express your mind. Because of you we have these masterpieces. Thanks for deciding to live.

  4. Tom

    Hey Paul – this is an important story, no doubt about it. But I do come to this site specifically for digital music news. Did i miss something maybe on an earlier post related to Daniels or Empire (because I’m not seeing a connection).