This year, Taraji P. Henson’s career catapulted to a new level of fame due to her role in the hit seriesEmpire. She was the first African American actress to win a Critic’s Choice Award for best lead in a drama series, and received recognition from Emmy voters who nominated her for Best Actress in a Drama. Last night, Henson became the 3rd African American woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV drama in the 73-year history of the Golden Globes.
“Who knew that playing an ex-convict would take me all around the globe?”
One couldn’t help but notice the sarcasm in Henson’s voice last night as she acknowledged that her award came as a result of her playing an “ex-con who sold crack and spent 17 years of her life in prison.” We can’t close our eyes to the complex history of Hollywood when it comes to African-American actors/actresses being recognized and awarded for portraying semi-stereotypical roles; however, that is another topic for another day. Last night’s win was certainly well deserved. Originally from Washington DC, my hometown, Henson attended Oxon Hill High School, and went on to North Carolina A&T where she initially decided to embark on a career in engineering; however, after failing her classes, she was convinced by her father to come back home and enroll in the drama program at Howard University.
“I always had a burning desire to act, but fear was in the way. Fear is a powerful thing.”
After graduating from Howard, Henson pushed past her fear, stepped out on faith, and moved to California as a single mom with little money and a big dream.
“I went to California with my son, $700 and Jesus. There was no way that I would be able to tell my son to follow his dreams if I wasn’t willing to follow my own.”
In 2001, her role in Baby Boy made her a household name in the Black community. She then starred in Hustle & Flow in 2005 alongside her Empire co-star Terrence Howard. In 2008, Henson was nominated for an Oscar for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; however, even after the Oscar nomination, she still didn’t receive many opportunities for her to star in a major role. It wasn’t until Tyler Perry offered her a starring role in 2009, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, that she was offered real money for playing a leading character.
“I know I have a voice. I know my time is going to come. I just have to be patient, and continue to persist.”
Patience and persistence for 20 years has lead Taraji to starring in Fox’s most watched television show in 23 years and her first Golden Globe win.
“I waited 20 years for this. You ‘gon’ wait! My fans have been praying for this. You’ve got to give me time.”