Co-stars Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson were getting paid around $175,000 per episode of Empire. Indeed it’s estimated that Taraji is currently worth about $16 Million. But this wasn’t always the life for Taraji.
Don’t get comfortable calling Taraji P. Henson “Cookie from Empire”—she deserves more respect than that.
She may have surprised some by stealing every scene she was in during Empire’s maiden voyage, but she’s hardly a rookie. Since moving to Los Angeles nearly 20 years ago, Henson has ascended the ranks, moving from an office job to bit parts, becoming a lively character actress, and finally arriving at the top of the mountain. It took Henson years to shake the “Yvette” brand that her animated performance in Baby Boy earned her, but her turn as ride-or-die chick/brilliant A&R Cookie Lyon on arguably the year’s best show has erased that.
Here are things you didn’t know about Taraji.
Although she graduated from Howard University in 1995, she initially attended North Carolina A&T University to study electrical engineering.
After getting pregnant during her junior year of college, she demanded that her professors not treat her differently. She even brought her son, Marcell, to class with her once he was born.
She was in a production of Dreamgirls during college—while pregnant.
In 1996, she moved to L.A. with her son and $700 to her name.
In 1997, she played the character Monique on Smart Guy. A year later, she played Leslie on the show for two episodes. She also guest starred on an episode of Sister, Sister.
Henson, who’s posed nude for PETA in the past, considers her dog, Willie, a family member.
She said she had a “moment” when she found out she’d be auditioning with Tyrese for the role she eventually got in Baby Boy, her first major—and leading—role. Their chemistry was, and remains, electric.
She had to fight for her role in Hustle & Flow, because Terrence Howard originally wanted it to go to Meagan Good.
She was nominated for an Academy Award in 2008 for her performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
She’s also technically already an Oscar-winner. She sang the vocals on the version of “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” seen in Hustle & Flow. The song infamously won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2006.
Some of her best shade on Empire—“Booboo Kitty”; “Shut up, Dora!“—was improvised.
According to her, “Cookie” was her nickname for part of her life.
She credits Mary J. Blige’s music for keeping her sane, and she’s also a fan of J. Cole and Joey Bada$$.
She nearly turned down her role on Empire because Terrence Howard wasn’t cast yet, and that’s who she wanted to work with based on their history.
She was more worried about Empire’s anti-Obama comment.
(see the full tea below)
Taraji’s latest project Coffee & Kareem
Taraji on dealing with Anxiety and Depression
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