American talent Taraji Penda Henson covers the January 18, 2019 issue of Porter Edit. Tracy Taylor styles Henson in Alexander Wang, Iro, Stella McCartney, Maison Margiela, Proenza Schouler and more for ‘What Women Need’, lensed by Sam Taylor Johnson.
Eve Barlow conducts the brisk interview, opening with Henson’s role as Cookie Lyon in Fox’s ‘Empire’.
Despite the instant lovability of Cookie, the actress was initially reluctant to take the character on. On paper, she read like someone the audience would hate – a brash ex-convict – but then Henson saw an opportunity to change minds, including her own. “I stopped judging her,” she says. “We see somebody we don’t identify with and the first thing we do is judge, but all we’re put here to do is empathize. It’s my job as the actor to make the audience understand.” She references Charlize Theron in Monster: “We should’ve hated her. But she gave that woman humanity. An actor is supposed to conflict you. You’re supposed to be confused.” There’s a part of Cookie in Henson, too: she’s both a charmer and hustler.