Taraji P. Henson’s entry into the entertainment scene started when she appeared in the comedy drama film, Baby Boy, alongside Tyrese Gibson in 2001. Taraji had previously engaged herself in various background roles. Since then, she has become an accomplished and respected actress and has won numerous awards and nominations. In 2022, President Joe Biden named Henson to the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Taraji Penda Henson was born on September 11, 1970, in Washington, D.C. She grew up with two siblings and had a close relationship with her maternal grandmother. Her name, Taraji, means “hope,” and Penda means “love” in Swahili. She attended Howard University, where she studied electrical engineering and later switched to acting. She worked as a secretary at the Pentagon during the day and a singing-dancing waitress at night to pay for her studies.
Henson’s acting career started picking up in 2005 when she starred alongside Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). The actress quickly became a TV sensation, and her fan base continued to grow. She later took part in popular Tyler Perry movies like The Family That Preys (2008), I Can Do Bad All by Myself (2009), and Acrimony (2018).
Taraji starred as Tiffany Rubin in the hit movie Taken from Me, a true story about a woman whose son was kidnapped by his biological father. Her role in the film received many positive reviews, earning her several award nominations. She also appeared as a guest star on the popular TV shows CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, House, and Boston Legal.
The height of her acting career came in 2015 when she was cast in Fox’s hip-hop musical drama, Empire. She played the character Cookie Lyon alongside actor Terrence Howard. Henson’s role as Cookie earned her critical acclaim and recognition. She also won the coveted Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a TV Drama Series. Her starring role, Cookie, portrays her as a no-nonsense mother with a strong personality; a contrast to her funny, cheerful, and outgoing nature in real life.
Henson has also made a mark on the music scene. Although she had an acting role, she also provided vocals for the song, It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp, on the soundtrack for the 2005 crime drama Hustle & Flow. The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Taraji and her crew performed the song at the Oscar Award ceremony in 2006. The actress also appeared in Tyrese Gibson’s music video Stay, and rapper Common’s Testify.
Henson is also in business with MAC Cosmetics, creating the #MACTaraji make-up collection. She is MAC’s spokeswoman for the Viva Glam campaign, which raises money and awareness for HIV/AIDS.
Henson has a passion for hair, and is a self-proclaimed hairstylist; the actress confesses that, while in college, she styled other people’s hair for $20. She now has a beauty salon at her home, owns a hair care line called TPH by Taraji, and posts hair styling tutorials on her Instagram.