June 23, 2015




Cookie, as embodied by Henson, has become the reigning heroine of 2015. She’s maternal, sexy, honest, and always up for a cat fight. Largely because of Cookie, Empire is the season’s No. 1 broadcast series with adults 18 to 49 and has unseated The Big Bang Theory. More than 17 million viewers watched the season finale, a bizarre mash-up of revealed secrets, attempted murder, quasi-incestuous sex, and a sudden plot twist involving an incurable disease, which prompted 2.4 million tweets in the space of two hours.


The audience must like the speed of the plot contrivances—the show’s ratings have increased steadily by the week, as has its viewership online. The show’s soundtrack was No. 1 on the Billboard200 chart. And Henson, who in June won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for best actress in a drama series, has 3.49 million followers on Twitter alone.


“They want Cookie,” Henson declared. “They see her heart. They see her intentions. And they love her style—her style is 17 years behind the fashion curve, which makes the clothes a character on the show. As Cookie grows, you’ll see her fashion grow. And people love that—she’s a work in progress. The only thing that never changes is her spirit: To me, Cookie is living, breathing, walking truth.”

Nevertheless, Henson has attracted a lot of criticism, especially from the black community, which feels Cookie is not a proper role model. “When I hear that Cookie is a bad representation of black women, I don’t get involved. Maybe Cookie makes you uncomfortable because she reminds you of yourself. People miss the bigger picture when they start judging.”