Taraji P. Henson

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Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson 2011.jpg
Henson at the 2011 Heart Truth fashion show
Born Taraji Penda Henson
(1970-09-11) September 11, 1970 (age 44)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Education Bachelor of Fine Arts
Alma mater Howard University
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1997–present
Children 1

Taraji Penda Henson[1][2] (born September 11, 1970)[1][2] is an American actress and singer. Henson studied acting at Howard University and began her Hollywood career in guest-roles on several television shows before making her breakthrough in Baby Boy (2001). In 2005, she starred in Hustle & Flow and played Queenie in David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), for which she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 2010, she appeared in the comedy Date Night and co-starred in the remake of The Karate Kid. In 2012, Henson was in the large ensemble cast film Think Like A Man and reprised her role in its sequel.

Henson has also had an extensive career in television, having been a regular cast member on series such as The Division, Boston Legal and Eli Stone. From 2011 to 2013, she co-starred as Detective Jocelyn Carter in the CBS drama Person of Interest. She starred in the leading role of Tiffany Rubin, in the Lifetime Movie Network film Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story, for which she received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. As of 2015, she stars as Cookie Lyon on the FOX drama series Empire. Where she has won a Critic's Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a drama series.

Early life[edit]

Henson was born in southeast Washington, D.C., the daughter of Bernice Gordon, a corporate manager at Woodward & Lothrop, and Boris Lawrence Henson,[3] a janitor and metal fabricator.[4][5][6][7] Her first and middle names are of Swahili origin, "Taraji" meaning hope and "Penda" meaning love.[8][9]

Henson graduated from Oxon Hill High School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in 1988[1] She then attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and transferred to Howard University.[10][7] To pay for college, she worked mornings as a secretary at The Pentagon and evenings as a singing-dancing waitress on a dinner-cruise ship, the Spirit of Washington.[11] She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1995.[12]



Henson at the 15th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, January 25, 2009

Henson's breakthrough role was in the 2001 comedy drama film Baby Boy which she portrayed Yvette, alongside singer Tyrese Gibson.[13]

In 2005, Henson was in the independent film Hustle & Flow as Shug, the love interest of Terrance Howard, who portrayed the male lead DJay. The film was nominated for two Academy awards, winning one. In 2008, she appeared opposite Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.[14] Henson plays the role of Queenie, Benjamin's mother, in a performance which has had an Academy award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.[15] She noted in an interview that, "Queenie is the embodiment of unconditional love."[8][14]

Henson was in Tyler Perry films The Family That Preys in 2008 and I Can Do Bad All By Myself in 2009. In 2010, she appeared in the remake of 1984 film of the same name The Karate Kid alongside Jaden Smith. The film was a commercial success.[16]

In 2011, she starred as Tiffany Rubin in the Lifetime Movie Network film Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story. The film was based on true events of the life of a New York woman Tiffany Rubin, whose son Kobe was abducted by his biological father to South Korea. Determined to bring her son back home, she is helped by an organization for lost children which his headed by Mark Miller, portrayed by Terry O'Quinn, and with a plan they are able bring her son back home.[17] Henson's portrayal as Tiffany Rubin received positive reviews[18] which earned her several award nominations including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.[19]

In 2012, Henson was in the large ensemble cast film Think Like A Man, which was based on Steve Harvey's 2009 book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Henson reprised her role in the film's sequel Think Like a Man Too, which was released in June 2014.[20]


Henson has guest-starred on several television shows, such as the WB Television Network's Smart Guy, playing the role of Monique (1997–98); the Fox series House in 2005; and CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in 2006. She also starred on an episode of Sister, Sister.[1]

Henson has also been a cast member on several television shows, including Lifetime Television's The Division and ABC's Boston Legal for one season. Her recurring appearances in television include the character Angela Scott on ABC's Eli Stone in December 2008. In 2011, Henson was cast in the CBS crime-suspense series Person of Interest.[21][22] In the Person of Interest November 20, 2013 episode "The Crossing", after co-starring for two and a half years, Henson's character Carter was killed as part of the series' new storyline direction.[23]

In February 2014, several months after her last episode of Person of Interest aired on CBS, Henson was hired by Fox to star in the new TV series pilot Empire, a musical drama set in the hip hop recording industry.[24] Henson plays Cookie Lyon opposite former Hustle & Flow costar Terrence Howard. Fox ordered the pilot to series in May 2014 and the TV series debuted on January 7, 2015 with positive reviews from critics and wide commercial success.[25][26] Her work as Cookie Lyon gave her widespread recognition and positive reviews.[27][28][29]

Other work[edit]

Henson made her singing debut in Hustle & Flow; she provided the vocals for the Three 6 Mafia track "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp".[11] The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2006, giving Three 6 Mafia the distinction of becoming the first African American hip-hop act to win in that category.[30] Henson performed the song at the live Oscar ceremony on March 5, 2006 with the group.[31] Additionally, she performed the song "In My Daughter's Eyes" on the 2006 charity album Unexpected Dreams – Songs From the Stars.[32]

Henson has made several appearances in music videos. For example, she starred in the rapper Common's music video "Testify" in 2005 as the wife of a soon to be convicted murderer.[33] She also appeared in Tyrese Gibson's music video Stay as his love interest.[34]

On March 16, 2015, she was a guest co-host on Live! with Kelly and Michael filling in for regular co-host Kelly Ripa.[35]

Personal life[edit]

Henson became pregnant her junior year of college,[1] and gave birth in 1994 to her son Marcel.[36] Her son's father was her high-school sweetheart.[37] According to a mitochondrial DNA analysis, her matrilineal lineage can be traced to the Masa people of Cameroun.[38]

Henson is a great-great-cousin of North Pole explorer Matthew Henson.[39]

Henson is a Christian. [40]


Henson claimed her 20-year-old son Marcell Johnson[41] had been racially profiled by police and that his car had been illegally searched during a traffic stop on October 18, 2014 in Glendale, California. A video obtained by the Los Angeles Times showed Johnson had driven through a lighted crosswalk while a pedestrian was crossing, that he had given verbal consent to search his vehicle, that he had admitted to smoking marijuana two hours before going behind the wheel, and that hash oil, marijuana, and a knife were found inside his car. Apologizing for overreacting and for making unsubstantiated claims, Henson said in an Instagram message, saying in part, "I would like to publicly apologize to the officer and the Glendale Police Department. A mother's job is not easy and neither is a police officer's."[42][43][44]


A supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Henson in January 2011 appeared nude in an ad for the I'd Rather Be Naked Than Wear Fur campaign.[45][46]

Henson joined PETA again for a 2013 campaign stating "Be an Angel for Animals". In the ad Henson poses with her family dog Uncle Willie while wearing a piece of sheer fabric. The ad highlights the issue that, "Chained dogs suffer day in and day out. They are cold, hungry, thirsty, vulnerable, and lonely. Keep them inside, where it's safe and warm."[47]

In February 2015, Henson posed in an ad for the NOH8 Campaign, which advocates same-sex marriage.[48]


Year Title Role Notes
2000 The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle Left-Wing Student
2000 Satan's School for Girls Paige
2001 Baby Boy Yvette
2004 Hair Show Tiffany
2005 Hustle & Flow Shug
2005 Four Brothers Camille Mercer
2005 Animal Ramona
2006 Something New Nedra
2007 Smokin' Aces Sharice Watters
2007 Talk to Me Vernell Watson
2008 The Family That Preys Pam Evans
2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Queenie
2009 Not Easily Broken Clarice Clark-Johnson
2009 Hurricane Season Dayna Collins
2009 I Can Do Bad All By Myself April Jones
2010 Date Night Detective Arroyo
2010 The Karate Kid Sherry Parker
2010 Peep World Mary
2010 Once Fallen Pearl
2011 The Good Doctor Nurse Theresa
2011 Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story[49] Tiffany Rubin
2011 Larry Crowne B'Ella
2011 Laugh at My Pain Taraji
2011 From the Rough Catana Starks
2012 Think Like a Man Lauren Harris
2013 Madly Madagascar Okapi
2014 Think Like a Man Too[20] Lauren Harris
2014 No Good Deed Terri Granger
2014 Season Of Love Jackie TV Movie "Lifetime"
Year(s) Title Role(s) Notes
1997/98 Smart Guy Monique / Leslie 3 episodes
1998 ER Elan Episode: "Split Second"
2001 Murder She Wrote: The Last Free Man Bess Pinckney Movie
2002–04 The Division Inspector Washington 14 episodes
2004 All of Us Kim Episode: "In Through the Out Door"
2005 House Moira Episode: "Spin"
2006 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Christina Episode: "I Like to Watch"
2007–08 Boston Legal Whitney Rome 17 episodes
2008 Eli Stone Angela Scott 3 episodes in season 2
2010 The Cleveland Show Chanel Williams Episode: "Brotherly Love"
2011–13, 15 Person of Interest Jocelyn "Joss" Carter 55 episodes
2015–present Empire Cookie Lyon Main role
2015 Saturday Night Live Herself (host) 1 episode
2015 Live! with Kelly and Michael Herself (co-host) 1 episode

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominated work Association Category Result
2001 Baby Boy Black Reel Awards Best Actress Nominated
2005 Hustle & Flow BET Awards Best Actress Won
2005 Black Reel Awards Best Supporting Actress Won
2005 Best Ensemble Nominated
2005 Black Movie Awards Best Supporting Actress[citation needed] Won
2005 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
2005 MTV Movie Awards Best Breakthrough Performance Nominated
2005 Best Kiss (Shared with Terrence Howard) Nominated
2005 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
2005 Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2005 Four Brothers Black Reel Awards Best Ensemble Nominated
2007 Talk to Me NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
2007 Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Austin Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress Won
2008 BET Awards Best Actress Won
2008 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Won
2008 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2008 Black Reel Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2008 Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2008 Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2008 Houston Film Critics Society Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2008 MTV Movie Awards Best Female Performance Nominated
2008 St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2008 Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated
2008 Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
2009 I Can Do Bad All By Myself Black Reel Awards Best Actress Nominated
2011 Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story BET Awards Best Actress Won
2011 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Won
2011 Black Reel Awards Best Actress: T.V. Movie/Cable Won
2011 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
2011 Satellite Awards Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2015 NAACP Image Awards Entertainer of the Year Won
2015 No Good Deed Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Won
2015 Empire BET Awards Best Actress Won
2015 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Actress in a Drama Series Won
2015 Teen Choice Awards Choice TV Actress: Drama Pending
2015 TCA Awards Individual Achievement in Drama Pending


  1. ^ a b c d e "Taraji P. Henson - Biography". Biography.com (FYI / A&E Networks). Retrieved 2014-09-18. 
  2. ^ a b "Taraji P. Henson". TVGuide.com. Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Boris Lawrence Henson RIP...I no u got heaven in stitches cause u had the best sense of humor even in your last moments you kept us laughin.". twitter. Retrieved January 10, 2015. 
  4. ^ Wiltz, Teresa (July 21, 2005), "Drama Queen: Taraji Henson Moved to Hollywood And Smacked It Right Upside the Head", Washington Post: C01 
  5. ^ Veteran Actors, First Time Nominees
  6. ^ NAACP nominates actress with local ties
  7. ^ a b Galloway, Stephen; Guider, Elizabeth (December 8, 2008). "Oscar Roundtable: The Actresses". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 3, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Interview with Tavis Smiley, 2008 Dec 19
  9. ^ Henson, Taraji P. (2013-12-05). The Late Show with David Letterman. Interview with David Letterman. Worldwide Pants. CBS. . Approximately 4 minutes before the end of the show, Henson said that first name is Taraji and "means hope in Swahili" and that her middle name is "Penda, P-E-N-D-A, and that means love in Swahili".
  10. ^ Wiltz, Drama Queen
  11. ^ a b Teran, Andi (February 12, 2009). "Meet the Nominees: Taraji P. Henson". Vanity Fair. Retrieved April 7, 2015. 
  12. ^ Hamilton, Kerry-Ann (October 2, 2009). "Alumna Taraji P. Henson Named as 2009 Homecoming Ambassador and Grand Marshal". Howard University Newsroom. Howard University. 
  13. ^ "Taraji P. Henson Talks Cookie Taking Over Her Life, Kerry Washington, Baby Boy Sequel, Season 2 Of Empire + More". power1051fm.com. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Williams, Kam (2008-12-14). "Taraji P. Henson: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Interview". KamWilliams.com. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  15. ^ MacDonald, Gayle (January 23, 2009), "Benjamin Button Leads Race for What Pitt Calls -- Our Highest Honour", Globe & Mail (Toronto): R13 
  16. ^ "Taraji P. Henson Interview: The Karate Kid, Beijing Culture and Working for Will Smith". pr.com. June 9, 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  17. ^ "Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story: TV review [Lifetime]". entertainmentrealm.com. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  18. ^ "Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  19. ^ "Taraji P. Henson". Emmys. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  20. ^ a b "Production starts on 'Think Like a Man Too'". upi.com. May 28, 2013. Retrieved September 19, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Person of Interest: Cast & Details". Tvguide. Retrieved July 9, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Taraji P. Hanson". Buddytv. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  23. ^ Snetiker, Marc (20 November 2013). "'Person of Interest' midseason shocker: Taraji P. Henson talks Carter's big [SPOILER!]". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 16, 2013. 
  24. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (26 February 2014). "Taraji P. Henson Nabs Female Lead in Fox's Lee Daniels Hip-Hop Drama 'Empire'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  25. ^ Gomez, Luis (July 5, 2014). "Lee Daniels' 'Empire' picked up by Fox, will 'likely' film in Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 29, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Empire: Season 1". 29 January 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  27. ^ "Cookie Monster: How Cookie Lyon Became the Most Compelling Character on TV". root.com. February 15, 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  28. ^ "‘Empire’s’ Cookie Lyon is TV’s best new female character". The Washington post. March 18, 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  29. ^ Harris, Aisha (March 18, 2015). "Just Give Taraji P. Henson the Emmy Already". Slate.com. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  30. ^ Swash, Rosie (June 12, 2011). "Three Six Mafia win an Oscar". The guardian. Retrieved July 9, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Three 6 Mafia Oscar Performance". youtube.com. Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  32. ^ "Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars". allmusic. 
  33. ^ "Common - Testify". youtube.com. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  34. ^ "Tyrese "Stay" (official music video) feat. Taraji P. Henson". Youtube. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  35. ^ "Scoop: Live with Kelly and Michael Week of March 16, 2015". broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  36. ^ As name is given in cited source: Boardman, Madeline (March 23, 2015). "Taraji P. Henson Sends Son Marcel to Howard University After Racial Profiling". Us Weekly. Retrieved March 23, 2015. 
  37. ^ "Taraji Henson Talks 'Think Like A Man' and Motherhood". The Wendy Williams Show via BlackRaceKids.com. April 25, 2012. Archived from the original on December 31, 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2012. ...her 17-year-old son... 
  38. ^ "Taraji P. Henson Ancestry Reveal". The Africa Channel via YouTube. January 31, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  39. ^ Henson in Williams, Kam (2008). "Taraji Shares All, Even the Surprising Color of Her Panties". African American Literature Book Club. Archived from the original on November 21, 2008. Retrieved April 13, 2015. Yes, he's my great-great cousin. He was the brother of my great-great grandfather. Matthew would send him letters about his travels while out on his expeditions. 
  40. ^ http://www.christianpost.com/news/taraji-p-henson-shares-godly-advice-with-a-fan-125912/
  41. ^ As name is given in cited source below, the Los Angeles Times
  42. ^ "#TurningANegativeIntoAPositive #LoveTarajiPHenson". Taraji P. Henson Instagram page. March 27, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  43. ^ Rocha, Veronica (March 27, 2015). "Actress Taraji Henson apologizes to Glendale police for racial profile claims". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 9, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  44. ^ "Actress Taraji P. Henson Apologizes For Claiming Glendale Police Racially Profiled Her Son", CBS Los Angeles, 27 March 2015.
  45. ^ "Taraji P Henson Goes Nude Again, This Time For PETA" January 27, 2011, Mrs Grapevine
  46. ^ Weiss, Shari (January 28, 2011). "Taraji P. Henson poses nude for PETA's 'I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur' ad campaign". Daily News (New York City). 
  47. ^ Dinh, Theresa (27 February 2013). "Taraji P. Henson Steals Her Pooch's Spotlight in Nude PETA Campaign (PHOTOS)". GlobalGrind.com. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  48. ^ Doggett, Jolie A. (February 4, 2015). "Photo Fab: Taraji P. Henson Supports NOH8 Campaign for LGBT Rights | Essence.com". Essence. Time Inc. Retrieved February 5, 2015. 
  49. ^ Morales, Wilson (Jan 4, 2011). "First Look at Taraji P. Henson's Lifetime Movie 'Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story". Black Voices. 

External links[edit]