Behind-The-Scenes Beauty Scoops From Season 2 Of Empire

Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX Courtesy of ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.
For fans — addicts — of Empire’s soapy, dishy deliciousness, the season 2 premiere date cannot arrive fast enough (just one more week, guys). Based on the teaser-filled trailers alone, we’re dying to see more of a probably not humbled Lucious Lyon in prison orange, Hakeem and Jamal’s harmonious duets (well, if they’re speaking at this point), and, of course, the supreme Cookie in all her designer-outfit fabulousness.

With Cookie’s wardrobe and storyline amped up for season 2, her hair and makeup are coming along for the ride (probably in a tricked-out Escalade). The full realization of the beloved character in all her leopard-print, well-accessorized glory requires an all-hands-on-deck, dedicated team effort — as if you’d ever think she’d be low-maintenance — comprised of makeup-department head Beverly Jo Pryor, celebrity makeup artist Ashunta Sheriff, hair-department head Melissa Forney, costume designer Paolo Nieddu, the show’s co-creators — Danny Strong and Oscar nominee Lee Daniels — and, of course, Cookie herself, the inimitable Taraji P. Henson.

We spoke with these in-the-know folks to learn what it takes to bring such a tour de force character to life. In addition to some great beauty tips and product recommendations, we got some insider scoop on what you can expect from season 2. Let this whet your appetite until the main course on September 23.
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Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX Courtesy of ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.
According to Pryor, who created the beauty concepts for Cookie in both seasons, the looks in the sophomore season will reveal an “expanded version” of the character to support the sure-to-be roller coaster plotline. They will reflect her many obligations as head of the Lyon household, A&R power player, and, yes, single lady. (Oh hai, Adam Rodriguez, last seen all glistening and spray-tanned in Magic Mike XXL.) “When Cookie is falling in love, her makeup is soft and glowy,” says Sheriff, who enjoys the honor of doing Henson’s makeup for every episode.

“When Cookie is handling serious business, her look is more edgy and strong. Her fashion and her beauty coincide with what is happening in her life,” adds Sheriff. And now that Cookie can officially reclaim her life of luxury, she’s making the most of it. "Cookie was behind the trends for 17 years because of her incarceration, so she's trying every lipstick, every pump, bag, and lash,” explains Sheriff. “She’s catching up, and she's having a ball playing [with] fashion because she can afford to."

"We played with lip colors just like last season, but now that Cookie is wealthy her color range is greater,” the celebrity makeup artist says. “She's wearing violet, tangerine, and even navy blue. She's more current with the world of beauty and what is happening with beauty on social media.” Maybe Cookie started following Alexa Chung on Instagram, because she’ll be showing off more “sophisticated” looks like winged liner and soft smoky eyes in the upcoming season.

"The hairstyle looks support the plotline, because we are talking about Cookie,” Forney says. “She comes out as a beast. She knows her style ability. We say she’s part of the 'hair union Local 706.' She knows what she wants, and that’s that!” Forney and Henson employ an extensive arsenal of wigs and extensions from Kim Kimble to pull together all of Cookie’s lewks.
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Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX Courtesy of ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.
This feathered Gucci look — which screams, “I’m BACK, bitches!” — makes quite the appearance in the premiere episode. “She speaks to the crowd from inside a cage, so my inspiration was she was this exotic bird in a cage,” Sheriff says.

Sheriff wanted Cookie’s eyes to mirror the intense peacock blues and greens on the dress, so she used two ColourPop shadows: (the aptly named) Empire emerald green and Rex navy blue. A hot-pink Milani Lip Intense Liquid Color created the perfect bold pairing with the eyes. Pro tip: Sheriff always sets Henson’s face with Model in a Bottle setting spray. Because all the makeup needs to stay on, even if Cookie’s brawling with Boo Boo Kitty or enjoying some private time with a hunky, sweet-talking concert promoter.

To counterbalance the (literally) peacocking outfit and beauty effect, a pared-down topknot was in order. To create Henson’s sleek updo, Forney first used an Andis flat iron to smooth out the hair framing the face and then glossed it all down with Kimble Beauty Shine Serum.
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Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX Courtesy of ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.
“The gold, lamé pantsuit made me feel like Cookie was in another era, specifically [that of] Studio 54. She’s a modern-day Bianca Jagger,” Sheriff says. This on-screen outfit could easily go from the office — overseeing her hit-making artists at Empire Entertainment — to cocktails at Leviticus.

"I used a violet, matte lip cream because dark colors were hugely popular in the '70s, but not this modern, vampy shade. That's what made it fresh," Sheriff says. Dose of Colors lipstick in Purple Rain offered a modern, almost shocking burst of violet.

To showcase Henson’s intense stares — which inevitably accompany stinging, ad-libbed Cookie one-liners — Sheriff drew on the upper and lower lashlines with a mix of Dior Waterproof Eyeliner and Urban Decay Ink for Eyes, and added Ardell Wispies fake lashes for volume.

"We focused on contouring [Henson’s] cheekbones and really popping her beautiful bone structure,” she says. She did this using a mix of Sheriff’s own Perfect Blend Foundation Stick in Tan Dual and an Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit.

“Taraji wanted to wear a long wig, which helped give her a very classy look,” Forney says. To create volume on the long, side-parted wig, the hairstylist used two curling irons — a Vodana and a T3 — and smoothed it down with a mix of Kimble Beauty Shine Serum and Kenra Volume Spray.
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Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX Courtesy of ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.
For a formal, Champagne-filled dinner that probably involved some verbal warfare among the Lyon family — or maybe another lingerie reveal, Cookie opted for a sheer, polka dot blouse and glittery lips.

"Paolo was inspired by an old Dorothy Dandridge image," Sheriff says. "We went for a classic red lip with red glitter for a modern-day spin. I paired [the lipstick] with a dramatic lash and winged liner for that retro-Hollywood look."

Sheriff used Dior Crème de Rose Lip Balm to prep the lips. Then, she lined Henson’s lips with MAC Lip Pencil in Redd, colored them in with the opaque, matte Jeffree Star lipstick in Redrum, and used her finger to pat on Naked Cosmetics red glitter. Props for none of it coming off on that Champagne flute.

As for Cookie’s voluminous hair, Forney went with a different wig and created full-body curls by working through it with a Vodana iron. Then, she pinned the curls to set while Henson sat in makeup with Sheriff. “After that, I use my bone comb and run my fingers through her hair so she can have that body,” Forney explains.

The hairstylist spritzed on volumizer and Oribe Superfine Strong Hairspray for flexible, moveable hold. You know, for optimal head tosses to accompany pithy bon mots and all that.
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Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX Courtesy of ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.
The Emmy-nominated Henson is famous for her creative improv skills — like coming up with the now-classic “Boo Boo Kitty” moniker, which Grace Gealey's prissy Anika Calhoun will forever be known as. And with that infamous family-dinner butt slap, of course.

Unsurprisingly, Henson is equally involved in her on-screen looks. "Taraji loves the looks we are creating, and she is hands-on with all departments on keeping Cookie organic and true to character," Sheriff explains. "Taraji’s response to Cookie’s style has been great because she is very involved with which wigs she would like to wear and what costumes she would like to wear the wig with," Forney says. "She’s a very creative person, and it helps me to be able to do what I need to do as far as styling each hairstyle."

"Every day is amazing," Sheriff says about working with Henson. "There is no one [favorite] moment. We laugh so much, and we enjoy every day working together. We dance, we joke, and we talk about current events."

If you’re obsessed with Cookie’s (and the rest of the Empire cast’s) hair and makeup and happen to be in Los Angeles on September 27, Pryor and Forney will be spilling some of their inspirations, trade secrets, and backstage dish at the Hair and Makeup By… Symposium.
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