"Empire" star Taraji P. Henson, who plays the spunky and very charismatic Cookie Lyon, recently lit up the "Tonight Show" and put a smile on Jimmy Fallon's face. The matriarch of "Empire" dropped some jaws when walking out on stage sporting a dress that left very little to the imagination, but she looked magnificent. Taraji is making the rounds of the talk shows promoting her new book, "Around the Way Girl: A Memoir."

Road to 'Empire'

On "Empire" Taraji is the stoic and stern matriarch of the Lyon brood, but on the "Tonight Show," the extremely animated Taraji was all smiles. Excerpts of her new book have been making the headlines over the past few days, including how she lost a role in a movie that was molded just for her.

She thought she had the role, but it went to Naomi Watts instead.


The movie was the 2014 comedy-drama, "St. Vincent," and writer-director Theodore Melfi wrote that part with Henson in mind. Melfi's vision was passed over by the head honchos who didn't think the role would support a woman of color, said Taraji. She did offer up kudos for Melfi whose vision went beyond the conventional thought when it comes to movie roles for a black woman. He could see a "gritty black woman" in the role of the girlfriend of a "grumpy white man." So could she, but it wasn't meant to be.

Star without the perks or an equal paycheck

She talks about her breakout role, which is basically the movie role that launched her career to bigger and better things.

Up until this point in her career the roles she landed were minimal. That movie was "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and she claims her pay for that movie was basically "couch change," in comparison to the other actors in that movie. To add insult to injury, while filming that movie, she was expected to cover her own hotel bill on location for all that time.

Cookie Lyon has been good to Taraji!

That role earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. As Cookie Lyon she won a Golden Globe Award. Besides staying on as Cookie Lyon in "Empire," Taraji stars in a movie that will open at the beginning of next year, "Hidden Figures," according to People Magazine.

The role of Cookie Lyon has made the 46-year-old a household name and her superb acting has been the talk at many dinner tables around the nation. But as she writes in her book and as she has said on the different talk show venues, it wasn't the easiest road to follow. She can tell you that it is still not easy being a black actress in Hollywood when it comes to landing roles!

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