ABOVE PHOTO: Jussie Smollett and Taraji P. Henson as Cookie in a scene from first season of ‘Empire.’ (Copyright – Matt Dinerstein, Stills Photographer)
Last week the NY Post’s Page Six reported Detroit woman Sophia Eggleston claims she is the real-life version of “Empire” diva Cookie Lyon, and has filed a $300 million lawsuit against co-creator Lee Daniels and Fox, accusing them of stealing her life story for their hit show.
Eggleston, 53, who says in the suit she was a “drug kingpin” who did jail time for manslaughter for placing a “hit” on a man, claims she wrote her life story into a memoir about her “early drug lifestyle” titled “The Hidden Hand,” according to Page Six. In 2011, she traveled to Los Angeles to meet with screenwriter Rita Miller and gave Miller a copy of her book. Her copyright suit, filed in US District Court in Michigan, says she got a call from Miller several months later saying she was going to pitch her story to Daniels.
But when the show aired in 2015, Eggleston says, the Cookie character “was similar in behavior, style of dress, and background” to her. The suit says she was “dismayed to see the various similarities of events and characters . . . so numerous and specific, especially . . . Cookie Lyon, that independent creation was obviously impossible.”
The suit alleges specific similarities to Eggleston’s life: “Cookie was a drug kingpin that went to jail. So did plaintiff Eggleston. Cookie is released from jail confinement and immediately places a hit on a certain individual. Plaintiff . . . actually was jailed for doing the actual hit on a man.”
Both she and Cookie share a taste for mink coats, both had a gay family member, and Eggleston adds in the suit, “There is no possibility the similarities are . . . mere coincidence. Defendants had access to and a copy of” her book.
Reps for Fox, Daniels and “Empire” co-creator and writer Danny Strong, also named in the suit, declined to comment. Strong has said he hatched the idea after hearing a radio story about Sean Combs and pitched it as a “hip hop ‘King Lear.’”
Eggleston, who provides home care for the elderly, has been jailed twice, busted for drugs and, according to the FBI, was charged last year with Medicare fraud. Eggleston commented to Page Six, “The whole city’s been telling me Cookie is basically me. Any jury would rule for me — $300 million is a very small price for taking my whole life and stealing it.”