“Real” Cookie Lyon Sues Fox & Lee Daniels Over “Empire” Series

By Parish Hodges  |  08/10/2015

Sophia Eggleston and Cookie Lyon, played by Taraji P. Henson

A Michigan resident is suing the FOX network and Empire creator Lee Daniels, claiming their hit show is based on her life.

According to USA Today, 53-year-old Sophia Eggleston filed a $300 million copyright infringement lawsuit in May, in U.S. District Court in Detroit, claims she's the "real" Cookie Lyon, who is played by actress Taraji P. Henson int he show.

"I know a jury is going to rule in my favor," she told the Detroit Free Press. "I have no question, and that's because it's the truth. The whole city was calling me. The whole city knows. They said, 'That (expletive) stole your life.' But you know what, I'm not angry at Cookie. Cookie got paid to do a job. I just want to right a wrong. ... Cookie Lyon is me."

In court records, Eggleston says she was convicted, in 1992, of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Rodney Meeks in Detroit and served almost four years in prison. Her rap sheet also includes charges ranging from weapons possession to evading police to resisting arrest and so on.

In Empire, Cookie Lyon comes home after serving 17 years in prison on federal drug charges. But upon her release, the character tries to turn her life around. Besides wearing mink coats and drug dealing past, Eggleston says there's several aspects of her life that mirror that of the fictional Cookie.

Eggleston says that she gave a memoir called The Hidden Hand about her "early drug lifestyle" to a screenwriter named Rita Grant Miller, which was eventually published in 2010.

In the lawsuit, she claims Miller informed Eggleston in 2011 that "she was going to pitch her story to Daniels."

"Rita studied me," she said. "Contrary to what Ms. Rita Miller says, we were in constant communication for hours and hours. Several people wanted to make deals. I refused and said I need to pray on it. I said I'm not selling my name. I wanted 61% of the proceeds."

From there, Eggleston says she and Miller met on a number of occasions, who showed her a movie Daniels directed, The Butler, and said he "would be the best" option in bringing her life story to the big screen. She said Miller called her in 2012 and told her that she had everything set up, and that she would be meeting with Daniels to formalize the paperwork.

After several months, she says Miller informed her that they wouldn't be doing a script on her life. Then, Empire launched on FOX and became a hit. This is when Eggleston began to notice similarities between the flamboyant Cookie character and her life story... and so did her friends.

"Finally, a light bulb went off in my head," she said. "Cookie's a drug dealer, she had a gay son. I had a gay brother. Her two cousins got murdered; my two sisters were murdered. Lucious Lyon was a producer, my baby daddy was a producer. This was me. This is my life, I thought."

The second season of Empire premieres September 23.