6 Seconds of Cookie

See the best of Taraji P. Henson in these short vines.

Taraji P. Henson

For #ThePopIssue, W’s Editor at Large Lynn Hirschberg interviewed Taraji P. Henson about her role as Cookie on Empire, failing math class, and more. Here, some video highlights.

On what she has in common with Cookie: “Cookie is the American Dream. She started from nothing and now she’s at the top. ‘Started from the bottom, now we here.’ I mean, I’m the American Dream. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I had a passion, I had a dream, and I dived. I dived in and I went for my dream, and here I am.”

On her false start as an electrical engineer: “Actually, I went away to North Carolina A&T to become an electrical engineer, but I failed pre-calc! That’s what prepares you for all the math you have to take, and I failed it. Pre-calc, not calculus, pre. I called my dad and he was like, ‘You needed to fall on your face! Now get back up here, enroll in Howard University for acting, and get back on your life track.’”

On her first reaction when she read the script for Empire: My manager calls and he’s like, ‘I have this script!’ And I was like, ‘What is it?’ And he’s like, ‘It’s a pilot.’ I was like, ‘For TV!? Didn’t I tell you I’m done with TV!?’ So he’s like, ‘Read it.’ I read it, and I’m like, ‘This is stupid. Hip-hop—dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb—oh, ooh! Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!’”

On her relationship with Lee Daniels: “Yeah, I knew Lee, but I never worked with Lee—because, you know, the last time we met was in the audition for Precious. He wanted me for the teacher and I was like, ‘Well, I want to play Precious. That’s the role!’ He thought I was crazy. But I was like, ‘Look, you turned Charlize Theron into a monster!’ That was the last time I saw him on a potential job, so he probably still was thinking, ‘This bitch is crazy. I don’t even know if I should call her.’”

On catching the acting bug: I remember the first time I was in front of an audience and that was kindergarten. I remember it like it was yesterday, and I’m not—well, I am 20-something… I remember going to the mic and doing something really quirky and the audience laughing, and I was like, ‘I like this. I like this attention!’ I loved that feeling. And so my dad saw that. He recognized that at a young age and he was like, ‘You’re gonna be a great actress. That’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna be an actress.’”

How to Instagram Like Taraji P. Henson

Always look classy, even in an elevator.

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

And also before you get into an elevator.

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

…And also before you step out your front door.

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

But show your followers that you woke up like this.

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

Then what it takes to get ready…

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Including all the products…

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

And the people who keep you together.

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

Don’t be afraid to take touristy pictures.

Photo by @ashuntasheriff.

Share your inspiring text exchanges.

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

Make flying on a private jet look casual.

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

Show off that you like to win.

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

And when you have a stylish date.

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

Make sure that your fans see your coolest accessories.

Photo by @tarajiphenson.

Be proud that you made it to the gym.

Photo by @forcefitnessinc.

And then regram the results.

Photo by @feeshlite.