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Meet 'Empire' It Girl (And Taylor Swift's BFF) Serayah

She still can't believe you actually watch her show.

It's been exactly a year since Serayah McNeill auditioned in front of Lee Daniels for a part in his hip-hop drama "Empire."

In that year, Serayah has gone from a normal teen, pursuing her Hollywood dreams in Los Angeles to a 20-year-old "It" girl starring on the biggest show on TV. Everyone from Ariana Grande to Oprah are fans of the hit Fox series -- a fact that Serayah has trouble grasping. In fact, she still can't believe people are fans of her show.

"When Ariana Grande told me she was a fan of 'Empire,' and I was like, 'What?!' It's crazy because even though I'm in the same business as them, I feel like they're super megastars! So I'm like, 'We're not in the same realm,'" Serayah told MTV News. "But then I met [Grande] at the VMA after-party, and she says, 'Oh my god. You're so amazing. And you look so great.' She was so nice. I couldn't believe she actually watched my show. That's so cool."

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When asked which celebrity fan she's been most starstruck by, the young starlet gave an answer that would make her bestie Taylor Swift -- Serayah cemented her spot in Swift's famous girl gang with a cameo in the singer's "Bad Blood" music video -- extremely proud.

"Mariska [Hargitay]," she said, smiling. "She was on the set of "Bad Blood" -- that's how I met her -- and she told me that her son loves the show and that Tiana is his favorite character. She said he's my biggest fan! Oh my gosh, that was so cool. She's the queen of 'Law & Order!' And I'm her son's favorite."

Having been exposed to the limelight, Serayah now sees more similarities between her and her "Empire" counterpart, Tiana, a hit-making recording artist signed to Lucious Lyon's Empire Entertainment.

"One of my biggest dreams is to be that type of pop, R&B star," Serayah said. "I'm independent, so I just want to make great music for my fans to relate to me, as Serayah. Hopefully, within the next month, I can put something out on my own. I want my fans to have access to me, and what I'm thinking. I write a lot my songs, so I'm excited for them to hear it."

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For an up-and-coming artist like Serayah, having a massive success like "Empire" be her launching pad couldn't be more surreal. While some artists might worry that the overwhelming success of the show might take away from their individual artistry, the California-born entertainer is happy that people know her -- and most importantly, her music.

"At first, I wanted people to know that I'm Serayah, not this character that I play on TV," she said. "But it's actually OK because Tiana is a pop star. This is her reality. It's cool that people already view me as that. I think it makes it easier for people to discover my music. It's not like my sound is very different from Tiana's -- that's my voice. It still sounds like me. It's just coming from my own words."

"Empire" season 2 (which premiers tonight, Sept. 23) will find Tiana in a similar position -- caught between the artist her fans expect her to be and the artist she knows she can be. That newfound confidence will influence Tiana's actions significantly this season.

"Tiana is a lot more confident with her position at the label, and what she's doing with her career," Serayah said. "She wants to have her own empire, so she's going after endorsements and other business ventures. She's a lot more into the business side of her career, instead of trying to be the wow-factor that she was in the first season."

Serayah's confidence will also bring her closer to her manager Cookie. What was at first a power play by Cookie to steal Anika's top artist out from under her, developed last season into a true sisterhood. When Cookie is fired from Empire, it's Tiana who chooses to come with her.

"She's like the daughter that Cookie never had, and it helps that Tiana is a performer, as well. She's kind of the only girl who's really established at the label, which brings her closer to Cookie," she said. "They have that relationship from season 1 -- they shared a lot of intimate moments -- and it's only stronger this season. She loves Cookie, and I think she takes a lot of direction from her."

But that doesn't mean the two women aren't going to butt heads, especially when it comes to Tiana's career aspirations.

"Tiana is a hardball herself, so she likes to think that she doesn't need the help," Serayah said. "I think all young entertainers like to think that their success is coming from them -- but Tiana definitely looks up to Cookie, whether she wants to admit it or not."

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Tiana will also take on an important position at Cookie's new label: she becomes a role model. For Serayah, who looks up to the likes of Rihanna and Beyoncé, it was the logical next step for Tiana, who had outgrown her title of Empire's new artist in season 1.

"She's kind of like the Rihanna of Roc-A-Fella this season," Serayah said. "If someone were to be signed to Roc Nation, Rihanna would take them under her wing to show them that this is how the life is. So that's where Tiana finds herself. She's taking newer artists under her wing."

And like RiRi, Serayah is ready for Tiana to have her star-making "ballad moment" to prove that she's more than a killer hook.

"I'm waiting for Tiana to have that moment because I think it would be really interesting for her and to fans, to see her stripped down," she said. "That would be amazing."