Taraji P. Henson on Her Empire Style: Cookie's Clothes Are a Character on the Show

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Taraji P. Henson may be known for her killer red-carpet style off-screen, but on Fox’s hit drama Empire, she’s known as the bold, cut-throat fashion risk-taker Cookie Lyons. And it’s because of her following (she has more than 3.5 million followers on Twitter) that the star was tapped as W magazine’s cover star for its annual pop issue.

Taraji P. Henson W magazineMert Alas & Marcus Piggott for W magazine

In the stylish spread, shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Henson opens up about how Cookie’s unapologetic sense of style and how she continues to push fashion boundaries, episode after episode.

“They want Cookie,” Henson told the magazine of her fans’ connection to her character. “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.”

She adds that Cookie’s eccentric take on fashion makes PEOPLE connect with the character. “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.”

Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for W magazine

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But Henson didn’t always want to be Cookie. In fact, the actress admits when she was first approached to play the role by the show’s creator, Lee Daniels, she immediately turned it down.

“I was like, ‘This is stupid,'” Henson said after refusing the role. “Hip-hop — dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. But then I started to think, ‘Cookie is going to piss so many people off! She hits her son with a broom; she talks back.’ Clearly, this was a challenge.”

Taraji P. Henson W magazineMert Alas & Marcus Piggott for W magazine

A challenge she eventually decided to take on — and it seems like it was all worth the risk.

“Not only would I never be offered a character like Cookie in a movie, but she doesn’t exist,” Henson said. “Cookie is bold and crazy, and she loves the struggle. She started from nothing, and now she’s at the top. In that way, we’re alike: Cookie is the American Dream.”

What do you think of the Empire star’s sexy spread for W? Do you watch the show? Share below!

–Sarah Kinonen

RELATED VIDEO: How Taraji P. Henson Turned $700 into Her Own Empire

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