By Sharon Clott Kanter
Updated Nov 03, 2015 @ 6:30 pm
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Credit: Brian Ach/Getty Images

They say fashion is an art, but according to Taraji P. Henson, it’s a science. The actress known for her kickass role as Cookie Lyon on Fox’s Empire was in New York City Monday night, hunkered down inside Cipriani 42nd Street wearing a strapless Alexander Wang dress and Lorraine Schwartz jewels to accept the Influencer Award from the Accessories Council at the 2015 ACE Awards alongside the show’s costume designer, Paolo Nieddu. It was one of the final awards of the night, and it was worth the wait. Henson’s speeches are known to be impromptu and straight from the heart, and that’s exactly what she delivered.

First, Alexander Wang presented the honor to the power TV fashion duo. “It is through Taraji’s conviction of the portrayal of the character and Paolo’s redefining vision of luxury that Cookie has become, in her own right, a cultural and fashion phenomenon,” said Wang. And while they jointly won, it was Henson who stole the mic more than a few times to announce that there would be no Cookie without Nieddu.

“I just need you to understand how brilliant this man is,” Henson told the audience of Nieddu. “He is like a scientist. When you think about clothes and fashion, you don’t think science. This one [Nieddu] thinks scientifically. He comes in and I stand there. People think I have influence. I say nothing. I’m his muse. I literally stand there and do nothing. I tell him about my weekend; I’m not talking fashion. And when he’s done, and I look in the mirror, I think ‘Omigod… This is it.’” (The crowd cheered at this point.)

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Credit: Brian Ach/Getty Images

Nieddu slipped in a few thank yous before Henson cut in to continue about his work shaping Cookie's look. “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” she said. “He says I’m so easy to work with, but I’m like ‘Because they hired you.’ I’m not a fashion person. I don’t study fashion. I’m an actress. They pay me to say the lines. And they pay you to bring the character to life through the wardrobe. I trust him. He makes Cookie look amazing.” And does she ever.

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Credit: Chuck Hodes/FOX.

For more Cookie fashion, catch new episodes of Empire Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox, follow Paolo Nieddu on Instagram at @pniddy, and read our fashion recaps right here at InStyle.