Is Cookie From 'Empire' Based On A Real Person? Many Different Women Have Inspired The Series' Greatest Character
There are a lot of characters on Empire who seem to be inspired by real people in the music and entertainment industries. But rather than one specific archetype, the real-life inspiration for Empire 's Cookie comes from a bunch of different references, which helps to make her character so unique. I mean, the whole show obviously owes a huge debt to Taraji P. Henson's ability to deliver lines of dialogue like throwing stars, which she told E! Online she loves to help improvise on the set.
But let's not pretend that actors are responsible for coming up with all of their lines. Another huge part of what makes Cookie so fantastic is the writing, which gives her a voice indebted to the women of Dynasty, possibly the greatest primetime soap of all time (yeah, you heard me, Scandal).
Empire has cited gangsters like Scarface 's Tony Montana as the inspiration for the Lyon family's taste in expensive luxury fur rugs and zebra print everything — and their constant scheming. But creator Lee Daniels, the costume designer, and even a script consultant have gone on the record with a ton of different influences for how they created the character of Cookie Lyon.
The Obvious Inspiration: Female MC's
Both Lil Kim and Foxy Brown were cited as Henson's primary influence for Cookie in her recent interview with Vogue. Cookie's swagger, her confidence, the way she supported her husband, and really beefed up his career for years, all feel very much like a young Lil Kim to me. And Henson says that Foxy Brown and Salt N' Pepa provided her style background, the types of artists that Cookie came of age with.
Their On-Set Consultant: A Hip Hop Wife
The New York Post reported that one of the closest Cookie consultants is working on the set of the show — Timbaland's wife, Monique Mosley, who's officially a script consultant. According to Mosley's interview with the Post, Daniels got a load of her being her bad self behind the scenes and was inspired: “When Lee saw me, he would say, ‘Oh my God, you are Cookie!...Your fashion sense and business savvy, it’s all Cookie.’ In his head, I was exactly how he had envisioned her character.” She even says that she sometimes lends out her clothes to be used on the show. I think being the real-life Cookie is my dream job.
A Costume Inspiration: Politicians
Costume designer Rita McGhee told USA Today that one of the many inspirations for the character's look was Hillary Clinton. "Hillary Clinton wears pantsuits. Cookie wears a suit too — but it’s a jumpsuit in leopard. She’s owning who she is right now," she said. Another person McGhee mentioned (this time in a different USA Today piece)? First Lady Michelle Obama.
Hilariously, one of the stars of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta , Joseline Hernandez, claims that Cookie is based on her. And while Joseline does have some of that Cookie flair, it doesn't seem very likely. Daniels' inspirations are all, to a person, camp cult classics, and Joseline? Let's be real, reality stars are, generally, not quite fabulous enough to be on Daniels' radar.
Images: Chuck Hodes/FOX; Getty Images; Giphy