Since premiering in 2015, Empire has become one of the most popular shows on network TV. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard, the show centers around the Lyons, a family who owns a powerhouse record label.

However, despite running a legitimate business now, the Lyon family’s past wasn’t squeaky clean. Before entering the music industry, label heads, Luscious (Terrance Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) Lyon had less than wholesome pasts so their stories of starting from the bottom and making it to the top are especially entertaining to viewers.

But if you thought Cookie and Lucious’ stories were strictly made up for your viewing pleasure, you thought wrong. The leaders of the Lyon family, as well as some of the show’s other characters, were actually inspired by real-life people.

So, who was the person who was the inspiration behind your favorite Empire character? You may be surprised.

See the real people behind Empire’s infamous characters on page 2…