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How Empire's Fierce 'Cookie' Can Help Kick Imposter Syndrome


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. If you've ever had a case of imposter syndrome, you know it's this sinking feeling in your gut that you just don't deserve to be in the job you somehow convinced someone to give you. Jazmine Hughes is an associate editor at the New York Times magazine. And for her, the solution was to channel the spirit of someone who owns every room she's in and takes no prisoners.


TARAJI HENSON: (As Cookie Lyon) So from now on, I handle and approve all things Tiana - performances, appearances, recordings, everything down to her nail gel color.

MARTIN: That, of course, is Cookie Lyon, the tough-talking femme fatale at the center of the hit TV show "Empire." Jazmine Hughes decided that in order to summon a new level of confidence about her career, she would walk in Cookie's heels, that is, wear her flamboyant wardrobe every day for one workweek.

JAZMINE HUGHES: Going into this project, which was an assignment that I was given from cosmo.com, I didn't think my life was going to drastically change in the course of a week. And it didn't. But my approach to talking about my problems did, which is actually probably so much better. But I could go to the office, and people would be like, why are you dressed like a crazy person? And I would say, 'cause I feel uncomfortable being here. And I've had a lot of good, really open and honest conversations with my co-workers accordingly.

MARTIN: What is it about this character? What is it about Cookie? Are there other powerful women like her, or does she stand apart in some way, do you think?

HUGHES: I mean, she stands apart primarily because there are so few black women leading roles on television right now. And so I'm a huge, huge, huge fan of "Empire." And I started watching it in part because it's just nice to see people who look like you reflected back on your television screen. But Cookie specifically - there's almost, like, no gray area with her. Cookie is strong. And she is powerful, and she is forthright. And she's going to tell you exactly what she wants, and you're going to do it for her. She sort of asserts herself in such a way that, you know, is totally outlandish and you wouldn't ever do in real life. But if you just take, like, a tiny bit of that and put it inside yourself, then I think it's a good move.

MARTIN: Give me an example. What is a piece of clothing that you put on or a particular Cookie-esque outfit, and how did it change you?

HUGHES: So there was an outfit in which I had to wear leopard print head to toe. So that meant a leopard print fedora, a leopard print dress that rested very comfortably near, like, the bottom of my butt - it was very short - and snakeskin heels and a giant Dolce and Gabbana leopard print bag. But I wore this to the office on a Tuesday morning. And every Tuesday morning, the entire editorial staff gets together just for, like, a pretty informal, but a stressful nonetheless, ideas meeting. We were sitting at this big conference table in the swivel chairs. And I just kept swerving around in my chair, putting my hand to my hat and being like, what are you talking - I mean, no. It wasn't that crazy. But I did get a little more, like, attitudinal in the meeting just because I felt like I was sort of a boss and in a charge.

MARTIN: Have you incorporated a couple of pieces of Cookie clothes or accessories into your mainstream wardrobe? Like, when you're feeling a little down on a particular day, a little self-doubt creeps in, do you pop on a leopard fedora?

HUGHES: So there is this white jumpsuit that Cookie wears at some white party. And she doesn't even wear it for a long time. It's not, like, a huge pivotal scene. She looks really great in it. But I look even better.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HUGHES: So I bought it, and it just got delivered to the office today.

MARTIN: Good girl.

HUGHES: So I'm very, very happy.

MARTIN: Jazmine Hughes, she is an associate editor at the New York Times magazine. We've been talking to her about how she kicked her imposter syndrome with the help of a white jumpsuit, amid other clothing items. Jazmine, thanks so much for talking with us.

HUGHES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.