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In case you missed it, we've fallen hard for Empire, Fox's smash hit hip-hop soap opera. The music's great, the drama's great, but our favorite part is without a doubt Cookie Lyon, the tough-as-nails matriarch portrayed by the insanely talented Taraji P. Henson. Here's what you need to know about our current girl crush, as fabulously told by her alter ego.

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She’s smart

Before deciding to pursue acting, Henson planned on majoring in electrical engineering.  

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She’s driven

She put herself through college by working two jobs--as a secretary at the Pentagon in the morning and a waitress on a cruise ship at night.

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She’s persistent

Even though she was working as a substitute teacher in L.A., she kept up with acting classes, where she was discovered by director John Singleton, who gave her her big break in 2001's Baby Boy.

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She’s bold

Initially hesitant to accept the role of Cookie for fear of tackling controversial topics, Henson relented, saying, "The fear is here for a reason. And if I'm feeling like this, other people are feeling like this, and if we don't talk about it, then we're gonna be a world full of scared people."

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She’s accepting

Unfailingly supportive of her character's gay son on the show, Henson has fronted a NOH8 campaign for LGBT rights offscreen. 

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She’s deserving

She was nominated for, but didn't win, an Oscar for her role in Benjamin Button. We're counting down the days until she gets her due. 

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So cheers to you, Taraji. May you keep making us laugh, cry and envy your ability to pull off fur and leopard like no other. 

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