*While accepting the BET Honors’ television and film award, “Empire“ creator Lee Daniels delivered a passionate speech about his relationship with his late grandmother, who he credits for being the true inspiration behind the wildly popular Cookie Lyon character on his hit FOX music drama series.
“Everyone says they created Cookie (Lyon),” he joked during his acceptance speech for his contributions to television and film. “No, seriously, I’m being sued by everyone but Cookie came from my grandmother. Her name was Grace H. Daniels.”
USA Today notes that Daniels’ late grandmother recently had a street in West Philadelphia named after her in honor of her advocacy for the African-American community. She served as the democratic committeewoman and, later, the chairperson of Philadelphia’s 44th ward before ultimately joining the Democratic State Committee in 1977.
“From 1947 to 1977, she was a politician in Philadelphia,” Daniels went on. “My earliest memories of her were getting people to vote, and she carried a gun. She was a gangsta. She would make black people come out to vote. She would knock on your door and you knew to come out to vote.”
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Daniels dedicated his win to his grandmother, who told him to always embrace and live in the truth.
“When I was five or four, she said, ‘You know, you are a (expletive), but you know what? It’s gon’ be good because you gon’ do some good things. Just learn to tell the truth. People ain’t gon’ like it, but learn to tell the truth.’ So, tonight, I want to dedicate this award to my grandmother who I love from the bottom of my heart, who told me to tell the truth.”
The Oscar-nominated director was among the ceremony’s honorees, which included Epic Records CEO and chairman L.A. Reid, President of Ariel Investments Mellody Hobson, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and LaBelle.