No television heroine in recent memory has garnered as much attention as the over-the-top matriarch of the Lyon clan on “Empire.” Even months after the season finale, we still can’t dampen our fascination with indomitable Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). She is as tough as they come and her unfiltered honesty, unbridled passion, and constantly simmering fury make her one of the most compelling women on TV today.
Despite her glammed-up looks and flamboyant furs, Cookie wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth. This powerful woman has fought for everything she has – and she’s still fighting. We met Cookie after being released from a 17-year prison sentence, and she wasted no time re-inserting herself into her family and their successful music empire.
The ease with which she re-establishes herself as the queen is impressive. Especially after being so isolated for nearly two decades. We wondered what makes Cookie such a force of nature – and how can we get a little bit of her magic? To help us (and you) on our quest to be a little bit more like Cookie, here are the top five things we’ve learned from her in season one of “Empire.”
1. Don’t underestimate the impact of someone’s past.
It makes absolutely no sense to me why the crazy bitches surrounding Cookie seem to have absolutely no respect for the fact that she’s an ex-con. Regardless of how badass she was before doing her time, surviving 17 years on the inside wasn’t easy.
And despite her perfect (sharp) manicures and neatly coiffed locks, there’s a storm underneath Cookie’s polished surface, and I wouldn’t want to be the one to unleash it. Rival Anika (Grace Gealey), on the other hand, isn’t that smart. But she learned her lesson (hopefully) in the season finale when Cookie finally couldn’t take it anymore and gave her a taste of the rage – and power – that’s packed into Cookie’s tiny, leopard-print-covered package.
2. Go bold or go home.
No matter the occasion Cookie is always impeccably dressed to the nines. Whether it’s a swinging fur coat, a statement hat, or gold, gold, and more gold, this music maven always brings it. Maybe her years in an orange jumpsuit helped shape her slavish dedication to fashion, or maybe she just knows that you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Cookie’s bold fashion choices add to her powerful presence, just like war paint or armor was used to intimidate enemies during a battle. She might be sporting top designers but, make no mistake, she’s wielding her haute couture like a medieval weapon. And it works.
3. Always get the last word – even if it’s a little cheeky.
Cookie never cowers and she never walks away defeated. But if she was ever going to slink away with her tail tucked between her legs it would have been after accepting ex, Lucious’ (Terrence Howard), invitation to lunch. In true smooth dog form, he invited her with a single red rose. Cookie took this as a sign that reconciliation would be served and marked the occasion by showing up in nothing but a sable coat and some seriously sexy lingerie.
Much to her surprise, there was no afternoon delight on the menu. Instead, Lucious planned the lunch to announce his engagement to another woman. Rather than flushing crimson and leaving in a flurry of embarrassment, Cookie does the only thing she can – turns and, before storming out the door, flashes her ample booty at her rival, and quips, “This is an ass.”
4. Be there for family.
Despite the years of separation, Cookie is all about family. Even though her three sons and scheming ex stopped visiting her years ago, Cookie is determined to bring her shattered family back together and restore the bond she once shared with her children.
In a rare glimpse of her life in prison, we see a moment between Cookie and one of her sons where – even behind bullet-proof glass – she assures him that she’ll always be there for him. The years of separation, however, took their toll and Cookie is scratching her way back to regain trust and respect from her ambitious, hot-headed progeny.
5. Speak your truth.
Cookie is nothing if not honest. She probably has no idea what an inner monologue is. Cookie calls it like she sees it, and the consequences be damned. Her raw, unfiltered dialogue is both refreshing and entertaining. Sometimes she says the thing we all wish we had the balls to say, and other times she hits us with a wisdom-bomb that knocks us on our ass.
The key to delivering the truth with Cookie-style confidence is a combination of knowing yourself and demanding respect from your audience. And Cookie demands respect just as easily with a simple look as with her biting words.
Nothing keeps Cookie down for long, and that’s one of the reasons we love her so much. If she can bounce back after 17 years of hard time, we can surely summon the courage to insert a little more Cookie into our everyday lives. Follow her example by speaking up a little more, never swaying from your loyalties, and remembering that, no matter what the so-called fashion experts say, leopard is always in style.
Photo Credit: Chuck Hodes/FOX