Before presenting the award for “Breakthrough Artist” to Tori Kelly at Billboard’s Women in Music ceremony (Dec. 11), Smollett took a moment to describe how seriously in love he is with Miss Patti’s pies.
“I was really, really blown away because I know sweet potato pie,” he said on the red carpet. “My mother makes sweet potato pies. She’s from New Orleans but Miss Patti put her foot in that pie. Her foot! And it was amazing.”
The cherry on top: LaBelle hand-delivered the pies to the Empire squad. “I dueted with her on the season 1 finale of Empire and she was at the Christmas special,” he recalled. “I went to her and I told her, ‘Miss Patti, we have been looking for these pies everywhere.’ She said, ‘Well, I brought three.’ She brought one for me, one for Taraji, one for Terrence. I’m like I couldn’t find it in the stores but I’ve got it better — Miss Patti brought it herself. It was awesome.”
Another woman the singer/actor adores? Alicia Keys, who recently appeared on FOX’s hit show by Lee Daniels as Skye and even lip locked with Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon.
“I’ve never worked with someone that was so easy to work with besides obviously the Empire family but [Alicia] was way too easy to work with,” he gushed. “[She’s] such a kind, genuine person and you feel that. That inspires me. All that she’s done and she’s still as humble as you can imagine.”
Beyond cameos from LaBelle and Keys, Empire has called on other Hollywood and music notables like Vivica A. Fox, Chris Rock and Swizz Beatz but Smollett says there are two more icons he’d like to see around Empire Entertainment HQ.
Empire recently wrapped Season 2 last month and will return on March 30, 2016.
BIllboard Women in Music will air on Lifetime Friday, Dec. 18 at 8:00 p.m. ET.