5 Things I Learned From Our Fall TV Role Models

Cookie Lyon (left) played by Taraji P. Henson in Empire

Ahhhh. Fall is around the corner, and once again, it will be time to organize our lives around our TV programming.

“Lol, hun. You know better than to ask me out for drinks after 8 p.m. on a Thursday. You know that time is not yours or mine. That time belongs to Shonda,” will probably be sent in a few text messages.


And while we may be squirming in anticipation of the drama that is probably going to unfold in our favorite shows—How to Get Away With Murder, Scandal, Empire, etc.—I think it is also important that we reflect on the very real life lessons some of the memorable characters on these shows have laid down on us in the most epic of fashions.

Here are five things I’ve learned from our faves:

1. Learn how to flawlessly command the room—Cookie/Empire. From the moment Cookie walks into a room, all eyes are on her. Her personality just seems to effortlessly swallow the room. Not only does she command attention, but she also commands (and demands) respect. This is a valuable life lesson for any millennial to learn to put to use. Networking and other socially necessary “adult” events aren’t favorable to the proverbial wallflower. Knowing how and when to put yourself out there and bring all (or the most important) eyes to you can never go wrong.

Bonus tip: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Age-old adage, I know, but there is something truly inspirational about Cookie’s waltzing around various, random locations—a prison yard, a boardroom, her own house—in furs and leopard-print clothes, full face of makeup on fleek.


2. Trust yourself—Olivia Pope/Scandal. I know, I know. You’re probably tired of it by now. Every time Olivia’s fabled gut comes into the conversation, it wrings an eye roll out of me, and for the most part, the talk of the trusted gut has all but died as our characters have grown and gotten more complex (read: warped) and the plot has thickened over time. But yet, there is something beautiful that comes with the innate ability to trust yourself.

It is all too easy to second-guess yourself in a world filled with noise when you can message 100 friends instantaneously to bounce an idea off of them. But what about you and what you want? What does your gut tell you about that? The confidence that comes with trusting yourself and being able to take a leap (even if you do make some horrible decisions sometimes) is an important life skill.


Bonus tip: There is nothing that can’t be solved with a glass (or entire bottle) of wine. (The Root encourages—and strongly advises—responsible drinking.)


3. “When in doubt, shut your mouth”—Annalise Keating/HTGAWM. This goes well beyond the Fifth Amendment and not incriminating yourself, although that is the main focus of the thriller from ShondaLand that refuses to let you breathe. Perhaps Mark Twain put it best: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." Keeping quiet is always an option, especially when you are unsure. Thinking before you speak also goes a long way.


4. Keep up with your hobbies—Michonne/The Walking Dead. Turns out, some hobbies could be lifesaving (for example, fencing is apparently great when you’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse), but on a more realistic note, multiple talents can also help you navigate the world much easier. Whether it’s building a side hustle to rake in extra cash, or using it as just a way to unwind and relax after a long day at your job, hobbies have proved to be essential to enjoying life.


Bonus tip: Always be resourceful. I mean, there are extremes, like using chained walkers like dogs to pass through a zombie-infested world undetected (I think that’s more along the lines of mad genius). But knowing how to use what you have to the best of your benefit can never, ever be a bad thing.

5. Find your safe space. Be yourself—Jamal Lyon/Empire. Jamal was dealt a painful hand from the time he was a small child. His mother (a shout-out to Cookie in the No. 1 spot) tried her best to protect him, but she spent a long time in jail, and Lucious, the father who tormented his own son for being gay, was unbearable to downright evil toward him.


The fact that Jamal was able to be true to himself through all that is inspiring, and not something that many people are able to do, out of fear for their own safety. Jamal finally emerged from his shell and came into the spotlight after his mother was released from prison, which shows how important having a safe space, good friends and/or family can be for the human soul.


Bonus fave: Never forget where you come from—Papa Pope/Scandal. Papa Pope is still an enigma to some, but this much is certain: He is successful, he’s at the top of his game and he is exceedingly (frighteningly) intelligent. Despite it all, the way Papa Pope articulates, it is clear that despite all his success, he has a very real and raw view about where he came from and what was necessary to get to where he is.


This was very evident in what I still consider to be his most epic monologue yet: “You have to be twice as good.” It is important for us to remember where we come from, because although it is true that we shouldn’t wallow in the past, it is also true that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Breanna Edwards is a newswriter at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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