Empire, the breakout Fox hit that returns on September 23, has a lot of things going for it: soapy storylines, progressive politics, Grammy-winning guest stars, bonkers plot twists and a singular, fun-as-hell hip-hop backdrop. But make no mistake: The show’s crown jewel is Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie Lyon, the ex-con Empire Entertainment matriarch who’s back to gain control of her children, her company, and her man. More than a scene-stealer, Henson commits assault and battery whenever she’s on screen, dressed to impress (or kill) and throwing shade one killer quote at a time.
But her episode-stopping utterances are more than a random string of skillfully timed trash talk and no-nonsense proclamations. Taken together, Cookie’s words are a philosophy. She lives an authentic life, makes no excuses and accepts no abuse. Even better, the most fashion-forward predator in the show’s eat-or-be-eaten jungle drops pearls of wisdom on us every episode, one line at a time. There is so much we can all learn from this woman. Now sit, center yourself, and repeat after Cookie.
“I’m here to get what’s mine.”
Create goals. Cookie took the prison time for her husband, Lucious, letting him continue to build Empire Entertainment into a worldwide phenomenon on the cusp of their first IPO. Over 17 years, her children became adults, her spouse left her, and no one appears to have a clue that her sacrifice built the multimillion-dollar company (though everyone knows that her ferocious fur, leopard and hoops ensemble she wore into prison remained on point). But Cookie does not let this get her down. How many times have you felt off-course and unmoored — you’re working so hard, but you’re not getting anywhere? If you can visualize your goals, you can achieve them. Cookie Lyon knows this. She has taken the time to create a two-step plan towards firm, achievable accomplishments: 1. Get what’s hers. 2. See No. 1.
“My name’s Cookie. Ask about me.”
Know your worth. High self-esteem is the key to coping with adversity and realizing your individual value. With swag squarely turned on, Cookie recognizes she doesn’t need to adapt her behavior to others’ expectations. She’s been out of the game for a while, but when she joins Jamal, her middle son, for a recording session at Ghetto-Ass studios (the name speaks for itself), she makes sure that all people present know not to mess with her baby boy. All it takes is a pat to her purse to let them know she’s “holding,” followed by a quick history lesson so they know just whom they’re dealing with. This is Cookie’s world; everyone else needs to fall in line.
“Better be glad I don’t feel like no scene today because I’d shut it down.”
Choose your moments. There’s a time and a place to bust into a boardroom, bed down your bodyguard or engage in a hair-pulling catfight with your ex-husband’s fiancé and her tragic anchorwoman ‘do. But even in grief, she’s adept at picking her moments. Told about her beloved cousin Bunky’s unexpected demise (but not that Lucious shot him through the head), Cookie confronts her ex about details for the funeral. His evasive answers raise suspicions, but she recognizes a video shoot is not the venue to make a scene. She’ll save that for a family dinner. Knowing when to act, and when to shut it down — that’s the key to tranquility.