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Bryshere Gray Had a Tough Childhood & Was Once Homeless before His Rise to Fame

Aby Rivas
Jun 01, 2019
10:25 A.M.
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Before earning the role of Hakeem Lyon in the successful drama series “Empire,” Bryshere Gray had to overcome some struggles in his life. The actor and rapper was on the verge of homelessness, but an audition for Lee Daniels changed his life forever.


Bryshere Gray was already rapping and writing his music under the moniker Yazz The Greatest before he made his acting debut on FOX’s “Empire.”


Born in Germantown and raised in West Philadelphia, Gray witnessed how his mother, Andria Mayberry, was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of his father, and at 5, he was diagnosed with ADHD, a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention that makes it difficult for the person to control impulsive behaviors.

After his father left, Mayberry started working two jobs to provide for him and his sister Brianna. She lived off credit cards just to buy food for her kids, and their situation didn’t get better for a while.



Gray started writing songs at age nine and rapping at 16. After graduating from high school, he decided to dedicate full-time to his music. He managed to perform at Budweiser's 2013 "Made In America" festival and opened for 2 Chainz and Fabolous, but his rapping career wasn’t taking off.

Then, at 18, Bryshere was pushed out of his mom’s house. He found his own place, but his financial lacking almost got him evicted.


“I was homeless, and I’m on the biggest show in the world now. I’m living proof that you all can do whatever you all want to do,” he told a group of students at the at BEyond Expectations conference in 2016.

Gray’s story about his living situation at the time has changed through the years.

In 2017, when asked about it, he told Harry Connick Jr. “Woah, woah, hold on. Everybody gets kicked out of their mom’s house at 18,” not giving major importance to the allegations.

Then, he said, he moved in with his manager, Will Smith's friend Charlie Mack, but that didn’t work out, so that’s when he allegedly found another place thanks to "Empire."



Talking to Vibe about how he got the role on “Empire,” Bryshere explained that at the time, he was rapping in Philadelphia, booking small shows and performing out on the street. Then, he met Mack, who talked to him about the audition.


“I did a video audition for Lee Daniels, and he loved it and sent me to L.A. I auditioned [there] with Taraji and Terrence, cause they were doing their auditions for Lee, too. We got to do it together,” he recalled.


Gray credits his manager, Charlie Mack, his friends and family with helping him remain focused through the incredible turnabout that transformed his life and opened him the doors to stardom.


He also credits his co-stars on “Empire” for being like his second family.

When asked what he has learned from them, the young star raved:

“I learned how to treat a woman from Taraji. She teaches me things on life experiences, cooks for me, Jussie and Gaby—we hang out outside of the set, and it’s like a real family. Terrence, on the other hand, is like a big brother.”


“We call each other on the phone as we’re leaving the set. We’re just getting out of work, and we’re writing songs on the phone in our vans going home. That’s how we are,” he added.

After “Empire,” Bryshere earned acclaim for his role as Micheel Bivins in the "New Edition Story," a biographical three-part miniseries about the R&B group New Edition.

He also starred in the dance film "Honey: Rise Up and Dance," where he shared the screen with Teyana Taylor and starred on the drama film “Canal Street” which tackles the deep racial divide in Chicago.