In a dramatic twist, a Detroit woman is claiming Lee Daniels and the other creators of Fox’s Empire lifted her life story for the hit series. That’s right — 53-year-old Sophia Eggleston says she’s the real-life Cookie Lyon.
In her lawsuit, Eggleston claims she gave a copy of her autobiography to screenwriter Rita Miller in 2011, which Miller then pitched to Empire director Lee Daniels. The sassy senior is suing for $300 million, insisting it’s “a very small price for taking my whole life and stealing it.”
Perhaps we should consider this clip from Empire‘s pilot to be a premonition of Eggleston during litigation.
Although, it seems unlikely Eggleston will ever actually see her day in court against Daniels, especially since she’ll be representing herself. Then again, who knows what the prosecution will unveil in discovery.
We could only get our hands on the first 50 pages of Eggleston’s autobiography, The Hidden Hand, but based on what we read, here’s how she stacks up to the inimitable character played by Taraji P. Henson.
1. The drug trade
In Empire, Cookie Lyon is a drug dealer who went to jail for 17 years after taking the fall for her and then-husband Lucious Lyon’s shady dealings. The Hidden Hand documents Eggleston’s troubled past in the drug world. “Cookie was a drug kingpin that went to jail. So did Plaintiff Eggleston,” alleges the lawsuit.
Eggleston also described her then-boyfriend’s role in her shady dealings. “Eddie was my right hand in the drug business,” reads the autobiography. “We ‘threw-down’ with a vengeance, also with a lot of hype, danger and destruction using and saling [sic] drugs.”
Fearing she is being targeted by ruthless drug lord Frank Gathers, Empire‘s Cookie orders a hit on Gathers’ right-hand man, Teddy McNally. In The Hidden Hand, it is revealed that Eggleston “actually was jailed for doing the actual ‘hit’ on a man.”
3. That style, though
Cookie Lyon’s fashion is on fleek in Empire and she is often depicted wearing mink coats. Eggleston also likes to wear mink coats. “I got 29 mink coats in the closet right now!” she told Detroit’s WXYZ.
4. A devastating death
Cookie’s heart is broken shortly after she gets released from jail when she discovers her cousin and longtime confidante, Bunkie, has been killed. He was shot in the head. In The Hidden Hand, Eggleston recounts a similarly devastating loss upon learning about “my oldest sister being found shot to death three times in her chest and once in the head.”
5. A gay relative
One of Empire‘s strongest story lines in Season 1 was that of Jamal, Cookie and Lucious Lyon’s middle son, who is gay. In The Hidden Hand, Eggleston discusses her gay brother. “Cookie has a gay son and Plaintiff has a gay brother,” the lawsuit concisely sums up.
6. The rap mogul
The head of Empire Entertainment, Lucious Lyon (Cookie’s ex) is the most sought-after mogul in hip-hop. Although Lucious abandons Cookie while she is serving time, the two manage to work through things and remain on good terms for much of the show’s first season.
In The Hidden Hand, Eggleston speaks fondly of the father of her oldest child — even though the two didn’t stay together. And, well, he does kind of sound like Lucious. “Meeting Edward Hodge (known as Eddie or Tape Shack)… he sang with R&B singer George Clinton on the Album ‘Bow Woo Woo,’ and also done concerts with greats like: B.B. King, Johnny Taylor, Tyrone Davis, Carl Carlton, the O’Jays and Dramatics. I met, socialized and got high with all these celebrities through him… Eddie and I developed a deep relationship, and was from this relationship in 1982 that my first precious daughter, Yaki was born.”
7. Dark days
Cookie Lyon is never one to mince words about the sacrifices she endured during her time served and how that time changed her. “You lose your soul when you feel like the world’s forgotten you,” Empire‘s matriarch says on Season 1.
Eggleston also opens up about her despair in her “testimony” at the start of The Hidden Hand, saying of a stint in solitary confinement, “Each day I drifted further away from my sense of humanity. I laid on my bunk bed, lost in loneliness and despair. Occasionally I thought about asking for help, but I had too much pride. Besides, there was no one to ask, no one cares anyway, I told myself.”
8. One tough “cookie”
Perhaps one of Taraji P. Henson’s most quoted lines of Season 1 came when Cookie told Lucious of honoring their hard-knock past, “The streets ain’t made for everybody. That’s why they made sidewalks.” And while Eggleston didn’t say those exact words, The Hidden Hand does prove at least one thing — that the Detroit native has the same feisty nature as Cookie Lyon. “I’ve been kicked down many times in my life, but my competitive spirit always brings me to the top again,” she says in the memoir.