Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson
Henson at the premiere of
Hidden Figures in 2016
Taraji Penda Henson
September 11, 1970
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Education||North Carolina A&T State University|
Howard University (BFA)
Taraji Penda Henson (// tə-RAH-jee; born September 11, 1970) is an American actress, singer, and author. She 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). She received praise for her performances as a sex-worker in Hustle & Flow (2005), for which she received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture nomination; and as a single mother of a disabled child in David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), for which she received Academy Award, SAG Award and Critics Choice Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress. In 2010 she appeared in the action comedy Date Night, and co-starred in the remake of The Karate Kid.
Henson has also had an extensive and successful career in television, including series such as The Division, Boston Legal and Eli Stone. In 2011, she starred in the Lifetime Television film Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story, which brought her a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. From 2011 to 2013, she co-starred as Detective Jocelyn Carter in the CBS drama Person of Interest, for which she won an NAACP Image Award. She starred in the ensemble films Think Like a Man (2012) and its 2014 sequel. In 2015 she began starring as Cookie Lyon in the Fox drama series Empire, for which she became the first African-American woman to win a Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series. She also won a Golden Globe Award; and was nominated for Emmy Awards in 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, Time named Henson one of the 100 most influential people in the world. That year, she released a New York Times best selling autobiography titled Around the Way Girl. Also that year, she was praised for her starring role as Katherine Johnson in the critically acclaimed drama film Hidden Figures, for which she won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Early life and education
Henson was born September 11, 1970 in Southeast Washington, D.C., the daughter of Bernice (née Gordon), a corporate manager at Woodward & Lothrop, and Boris Lawrence Henson, a janitor and metal fabricator. She has two younger siblings, Shawn and April. She has often spoken of the influence of her maternal grandmother, Patsy Ballard, who accompanied her at the Academy Awards the year she was nominated. Her first and middle names are of Swahili origin: Taraji ("hope") and Penda ("love"). According to a mitochondrial DNA analysis, her matrilineal lineage can be traced to the Masa people of Cameroon. She has said that North Pole explorer Matthew Henson was "the brother of my great-great-grandfather."
Henson graduated from Oxon Hill High School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in 1988. She attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where she intended to study electrical engineering, before transferring to Howard University to study drama. 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.
Early career (2001–2014)
Henson received her SAG membership card in the early 1990s for doing 3 roles as a background performer (extra). Her first prominent role was in the 2001 comedy-drama film Baby Boy, where she portrayed Yvette, alongside singer Tyrese Gibson.
In 2005, Henson was in the independent film Hustle & Flow as Shug, the love interest of Terrence Howard, who portrayed the male lead DJay. As detailed below, she made her singing debut in the film, which was nominated for two Academy awards and won one. In 2008 she appeared with Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where she played Queenie, Benjamin's mother, and for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In an interview with Lauren Viera of the Chicago Tribune, she noted that "Queenie is the embodiment of unconditional love."
Henson acted in two 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 The Karate Kid with Jaden Smith. Though it did not receive a majority of positive reviews, the film was a commercial success.
In 2011 Henson starred as Tiffany Rubin in the Lifetime Movie Network film Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story. It was based on true events in the life of a New York woman whose son, Kobe, was abducted by his biological father to South Korea. Her portrayal of Rubin received positive reviews and earned her several award nominations, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.
In 2012, Henson was in the large ensemble cast film Think Like A Man, based on Steve Harvey's 2009 book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. She reprised the role in the film's sequel, Think Like a Man Too, released in June 2014.
Hidden Figures and beyond (2015–present)
In 2016, Henson starred in the film Hidden Figures, a major box-office success nominated for numerous awards, including three Oscars (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer) and two Golden Globes (Best Supporting Actress for Spencer and Best Original Score). It won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
In January 2018, she starred in Sony Screen Gems's thriller-drama film Proud Mary, as a hit woman whose life is turned around when she meets a young boy who awakens the maternal instinct she never knew she had. In March she starred in the film Tyler Perry's Acrimony as a faithful wife who, after tiring of standing by her husband, is enraged when she believes herself betrayed. In November, she voiced the character Yesss in Disney's Ralph Breaks the Internet, a sequel to the studio's Wreck-It Ralph.
In February 2019, Henson starred in What Men Want (based on the 2000 Mel Gibson romantic comedy What Women Want )as a female sports agent, looked down upon by male colleagues, who gains the power to hear men's thoughts. In April 2019, she will star in the historical drama The Best of Enemies, portraying civil rights activist Ann Atwater.
Henson was also slated to star in and produce an untitled film about Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black Chicago teen who was abducted, tortured, murdered, and dumped in a river by two white men while visiting rural Mississippi in 1955. Henson will play Till's mother, Mamie, who chose an open-casket funeral for her son "so everyone can see what they did to my boy".
Henson has guest-starred on several television shows, including The WB's Smart Guy, the Fox series House in 2005, and CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in 2006. She also starred in an episode of Sister, Sister.
Henson has also been a cast member on several television shows, including Lifetime's The Division and ABC's Boston Legal for one season. Her recurring characters include Angela Scott on ABC's Eli Stone. In 2011, she was cast in the CBS crime-suspense series Person of Interest. In the November 20, 2013 episode, "The Crossing," after co-starring for two and a half years, Henson's character, 'Joss' Carter was killed as part of the series's new storyline.
In February 2014, several months after her last Person of Interest episode, Henson was hired by Fox to star in Empire, a musical drama set in the hip hop recording industry, where she plays Cookie Lyon opposite former Hustle & Flow costar Terrence Howard. Fox ordered the pilot in May 2014, and the series debuted on January 7, 2015 with positive critical reviews and wide commercial success. The role brought Henson widespread recognition and critical acclaim. In July 2015, she was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, and submitted the show's pilot for Emmy voting. In January 2016, she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for Empire, becoming only the third African-American actress to take home the award after Gail Fisher (1972) and Regina Taylor (1992). At the 46th NAACP Image Awards she was named the 2015 Entertainer of the Year for her roles in Empire and No Good Deed.
In 2015 Henson teamed up with Howard to produce and host a variety holiday special for Fox, Taraji and Terrence's White Hot Holidays. The special was produced again in 2016 and 2017, without Howard.
Henson made her singing debut in the film Hustle & Flow, where she provided the vocals for the Three 6 Mafia track "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." 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. Henson and the group performed the song at the live Oscar ceremony on March 5, 2006. She also sang "In My Daughter's Eyes" on the 2006 charity album Unexpected Dreams – Songs From the Stars.
Henson has made several appearances in music videos and television. In 2005 she starred in the rapper Common's music video "Testify" as the wife of a soon-to-be-convicted murderer, and appeared in Tyrese Gibson's music video "Stay" as his love interest.
Henson collaborated with MAC Cosmetics to create the Taraji P. Henson makeup collection in late August 2016. The #MACTaraji collection debuted the following month. In November 2016, she again collaborated with MAC as the spokesperson for their Viva Glam Campaign, along with Jussie Smollett, to benefit the MAC HIV/AIDS fund. Their collection debuted in February, 2017.
Henson has had a small stage career, appearing in August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone and the Pasadena Playhouse's Above the Fold. In 2019, she starred in an episode of the Houzz series My Houzz in which she surprised her stepmother with a major home renovation.
In 2014, Henson said that her son had been racially profiled by police and that his car had been illegally searched during a traffic stop in Glendale, California. A video obtained by the Los Angeles Times showed Marcell had driven through a lighted crosswalk while a pedestrian was crossing, given verbal consent to search his vehicle, and admitted to smoking marijuana two hours before driving. Hashish oil and marijuana were found inside the car. Forty minutes after the video was made public, Henson said in an Instagram message, "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."
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. She joined PETA again for their 2013 campaign, "Be an Angel for Animals", where Henson posed with her family dog Uncle Willie. "Chained dogs suffer day in and day out," the ad stated. "They are cold, hungry, thirsty, vulnerable, and lonely. Keep them inside, where it's safe and warm."
|1997–1998||Smart Guy||Mo'Nique||3 episodes|
|1997||Sister, Sister||Briana||Episode: "Two's Company"|
|1998||ER||Patrice Robbins / Elan||2 episodes|
|1998||Felicity||Resident Advisor||2 episodes|
|2001||Murder She Wrote: The Last Free Man||Bess Pinckney||Movie|
|2002–2004||The Division||Inspector Washington||14 episodes|
|2004||All of Us||Kim||Episode: "In Through the Out Door"|
|2005||Half & Half||Gabrielle||"The Big How to Do & Undo It Episode"|
|2006||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Christina||Episode: "I Like to Watch"|
|2007–2008||Boston Legal||Whitney Rome||17 episodes|
|2008||Eli Stone||Angela Scott||3 episodes in season 2|
|2010||The Cleveland Show||Chanel Williams (voice)||Episode: "Brotherly Love"|
|2011||Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story||Tiffany Rubin||Movie|
|Person of Interest||Detective Jocelyn "Joss" Carter||55 episodes|
|2014||Season Of Love||Jackie||Lifetime movie|
|2015–present||Empire||Cookie Lyon||Main role|
|2015||FIFA Women's World Cup||Herself/Narrator||FIFA Women's World Cup Final|
|2015, 2018||Lip Sync Battle||Herself||Episodes: "Terrence Howard vs. Taraji P. Henson" pts 1 & 2, "Michael Jackson Celebration"|
|2015||Saturday Night Live||Herself (host)||Episode: "Taraji P. Henson/Mumford & Sons"|
|2015||Live! with Kelly and Michael||Herself/co-host||March 16 episode|
|2015||Taraji and Terrence's White Hot Holidays||Herself/co-host|
|2016–2017||Taraji's White Hot Holidays||Herself/host|
|2016||Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade||Ethel (voice)||Special|
|2017||The Simpsons||Praline (voice)||Episode: "The Great Phatsby"|
|2017||Carpool Karaoke: The Series||Herself||Episode: "Alicia Keys & John Legend" |
Awards and nominations
In 2015, Henson won the Critics Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series (for Empire), and became the first black actress in the history of the awards show to do so.
- "Taraji P. Henson - Biography". Biography.com (FYI / A&E Networks). Retrieved September 18, 2014.
- "Taraji Penda. Henson". TVGuide.com. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2014.
- "Emmys 2011 winners: Full list".
- Around The Way Girl accessed 11/3/2016
- "SAG Awards 2017: See the Complete Winners List". Vanity Fair. January 29, 2017.
- Tucker, Neely (October 6, 2011). Henson, spent most of her summers as a child in Scotland Neck, NC a small town in between Rocky Mount and Ronoake Rapids, NC about a hour and a half from Raleigh, NC and 45 mins from VA stateline. "The real Taraji Henson". The Washington Post.
- Henson, Taraji P. (January 12, 2010). "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.
- "Family of Taraji P. Henson, Empire's Star actress - BHW". bodyheightweight.com. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
- Oldenburg, Ann (February 22, 2009). "Taraji P. Henson: 'I'll never forget this'". USA Today.
- Wiltz, Teresa (July 21, 2005), "Drama Queen: Taraji Henson Moved to Hollywood And Smacked It Right Upside the Head", The Washington Post, p. C01
- "Veteran Actors, First Time Nominees". The Wall Street Journal. February 19, 2009. (subscription required)
- Galloway, Stephen; Guider, Elizabeth (December 8, 2008). "Oscar Roundtable: The Actresses". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
- Lanz, Michelle (August 10, 2016). "'Empire' star Taraji P. Henson on the pros and cons of being Cookie". 89.3 KPCC.
- Henson, Taraji P. (December 5, 2013). "The Late Show with David Letterman" (Interview). Interviewed by David Letterman. Worldwide Pants.. 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 'to love' in Swahili".
- "Taraji P. Henson Ancestry Reveal". The Africa Channel via YouTube. January 31, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- 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.
- Teran, Andi (February 12, 2009). "Meet the Nominees: Taraji P. Henson". Vanity Fair. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
- "Taraji P. Henson Talks Cookie Taking Over Her Life, Kerry Washington, Baby Boy Sequel, Season 2 Of Empire + More". power1051fm.com. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
- Williams, Kam (December 14, 2008). "Taraji P. Henson: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Interview". KamWilliams.com. Retrieved June 30, 2009.
- MacDonald, Gayle (January 23, 2009), "Benjamin Button Leads Race for What Pitt Calls -- Our Highest Honour", Globe & Mail, Toronto, p. R13.
- Viera, Lauren (December 21, 2008). "The curious case of Taraji P. Henson". Chicago Tribune.
- "Taraji P. Henson Interview: The Karate Kid, Beijing Culture and Working for Will Smith". pr.com. June 9, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
- "Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story: TV review [Lifetime]". entertainmentrealm.com. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
- "Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
- "Taraji P. Henson". Emmys. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
- "Production starts on 'Think Like a Man Too'". upi.com. May 28, 2013. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
- Fleming Jr., Mike (January 11, 2017). "Hidden Figures Taraji P. Henson Set For Screen Gems Proud Mary". Deadline Hollywood.
- "Tyler Perry's Taraji P. Henson Movie Gets Easter Release".
- "Surprise! Taraji P. Henson Will Voice a Character in Wreck-It-Ralph 2 Who Name-Drops Oh My Disney!". 14 July 2017.
- Kroll, Justin (2017-11-14). "Taraji P. Henson to Star in 'What Men Want' for Paramount Players". Variety. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
- Jr, Mike Fleming (2017-11-14). "Paramount Players Plots 'What Men Want'; 'Empire's Taraji P. Henson To Star". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
- Fleming Jr., Mike (June 24, 2015). "Empire's Taraji P. Henson And Danny Strong Re-Team On Robin Bissell-Helmed 'The Best Of Enemies'". Deadline Hollywood.
- "Taraji P. Henson to Star in and Produce Film on Emmett Till".
- "Person of Interest: Cast & Details". Tvguide. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
- "Taraji P. Hanson". Buddytv. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
- Snetiker, Marc (November 20, 2013). "'Person of Interest' mid-season shocker: Taraji P. Henson talks Carter's big [SPOILER!]". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
- Goldberg, Lesley (February 26, 2014). "Taraji P. Henson Nabs Female Lead in Fox's Lee Daniels Hip-Hop Drama 'Empire'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- Gomez, Luis (July 5, 2014). "Lee Daniels' 'Empire' picked up by Fox, will 'likely' film in Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
- "Empire: Season 1". January 29, 2015. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
- "Cookie Monster: How Cookie Lyon Became the Most Compelling Character on TV". root.com. February 15, 2015. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
- Alyssa Rosenberg (March 18, 2015). "'Empire's' Cookie Lyon is TV's best new female character". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
- Harris, Aisha (March 18, 2015). "Just Give Taraji P. Henson the Emmy Already". Slate.com. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
- "Cookie From Empire Quotes". "EmpireBBK.com". March 22, 2017. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
- Washington, Arlene (February 6, 2015). "2015 Image Award Winners". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
- Wagmeister, Elizabeth (March 25, 2017). "Taraji P. Henson to Host Second Annual Fox Holiday Special". Variety.
- Swash, Rosie (June 12, 2011). "Three Six Mafia win an Oscar". The guardian. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
- "Three 6 Mafia Oscar Performance". youtube.com. Retrieved February 19, 2012.
- "Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars". allmusic.
- "Common - Testify". youtube.com. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
- "Tyrese "Stay" (official music video) feat. Taraji P. Henson". Youtube. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
- "Scoop: Live with Kelly and Michael Week of March 16, 2015". broadwayworld.com. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
- Hayley Wilbur (24 August 2016). "MAC Cosmetics continues its long history of diversity with Taraji P. Henson collaboration". Mic. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
- Nikki Brown (3 February 2017). "Taraji P. Henson's MAC Viva Glam Collection Is Finally Here". Essence. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
- Roberts, Madison. "Watch Taraji P. Henson Surprise Her Stepmom With Home Makeover 13 Years After Her Dad's Death". People.com.
- Boardman, Madeline (March 23, 2015). "Taraji P. Henson Sends Son Marcel to Howard University After Racial Profiling". Us Weekly. Retrieved March 23, 2015. Note: Source spells son's first name "Marcel".
- Brown, Laura (August 13, 2015). "Fortune Cookie: Taraji P. Henson". Harper's Bazaar. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
- 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.
- "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...
- "Oscars 2009: Meet the Nominees You've Never Heard Of". Hollywood.
- "#TurningANegativeIntoAPositive #LoveTarajiPHenson". Taraji P. Henson Instagram page. March 27, 2015. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
- "Actress Taraji P. Henson Apologizes For Claiming Glendale Police Racially Profiled Her Son", CBS Los Angeles, March 27, 2015.
- "Taraji P Henson Goes Nude Again, This Time For PETA" January 27, 2011, Mrs Grapevine
- 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.
- Dinh, Theresa (February 27, 2013). "Taraji P. Henson Steals Her Pooch's Spotlight in Nude PETA Campaign (PHOTOS)". GlobalGrind.com. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- 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.
- [https://www.livekindly.co/taraji-p-henson-went-vegan-to-avoid-stomach-cancer/ stutzer A. Personal Health Taraji P. Henson went vegan to avoid stomach cancer. LiveKindly.co/Personal Health. May 10, 2018. Accessed March 18, 2019]
- Melas, Chloe (2018-05-14). "Taraji P. Henson engaged to NFL star Kelvin Hayden". CNN. Retrieved 2018-05-16.
- Morales, Wilson (January 4, 2011). "First Look at Taraji P. Henson's Lifetime Movie 'Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story". Black Voices. Archived from the original on January 10, 2011.
- Vena, Jocelyn (February 15, 2017). "James Corden and Will Smith Get Jiggy with It in a Helicopter". The Daily Dish. Bravo. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
- Mannie Holmes. "Taraji P. Henson's 'Empire' Win Highlights Critics' Choice Awards' Diverse Selections". Variety.com. Retrieved 2017-03-14.
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