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You know you’ve made it when you score an invite to the Met ball. But when you score two? Well, you must be on the most popular show on TV. “My publicist got a call from Anna’s people asking if I’d been invited yet, and by that time I’d already been invited by Alex,” said Taraji P. Henson at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last night. It’s a good problem to have, says Henson, who plays Cookie Lyons on Empire. Just how life-changing has the role been? “I’m here, aren’t I?!”
Alex is Alexander Wang, who invited Henson to her first Met gala and dressed the actress in custom Balenciaga. While some actresses, like Sarah Jessica Parker and Karolina Kurkova, collaborated with designers on exactly what they wanted to wear in honor of this year’s theme, China: Through the Looking Glass, Henson says, “I was basically a paper doll!” She put all of her trust in Wang, and was thrilled with the results. “I have so much of his sh** in my closet it’s crazy, and I love Balenciaga, so them married together? It’s perfect!”
The embellished black and white column gown was just slightly more sophisticated than what her character, Cookie, might wear on such an occasion. “I used to be like that back in the day when I was younger and bolder,” she says of her character’s love of animal prints, and a generally more-is-more attitude. “But I don’t wear all that jewelry. I might wear a couple of rings, but she had to be very different from me.”
Henson was taking in the exhibition with Oscar-winning musician and actor Common. “Am I the only one looking at the stuff?” she asked, while the other guests flew by the brilliantly curated exhibition in search of champagne. She was excited to sit with Lady Gaga—“just a down to earth sweetheart”—and Wang, whom she called her new BFF. “He laughs at everything I say!” Henson’s contagious enthusiasm surely guarantees her first invite won’t be her last.