Taraji P. Henson has come a long way.
The Hidden Figures star, 46, recently reflected on her journey from the rough neighborhoods of Washington D.C. to an award-winning career that has landed her multiple trips to the White House.
“Honey, I’m from the hood,” she told W Magazine after a trip to her hometown in December. “Crack. Murders. Whole neighborhoods going under in a flash.”
Now, with a collection of critically movies, a hit TV show and a growing list of accolades — like the SAG award she just won with the cast of her new film Hidden Figures — Henson is finally living her dream.
“This is the life I always saw for myself,” she said. “You have to see yourself inside the dream, you know? Why you gonna do something to fail? No, baby, that ain’t me! I always wanted to be one of the big dogs.”
But it wasn’t always this way. Henson, who has previously opened up about her difficult childhood, was already a mother before she graduated from Howard University and left for Los Angeles. She was 26 at the time with $700 to her name and a young son named Marcell.
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“And I spun that $700 into an empire, didn’t I?” she said. “People thought I was crazy, but being a mom early enhanced my talent. It opened up a side of me that I didn’t know I had, that sense of duty and protection, and it kept me grounded in Hollywood.”
While Henson’s career has taken off, she doesn’t take her success to mean that it’s getting easier for all women of color in Hollywood. “Is it getting better for women, black women? I don’t know. It’s been great for me! I own six properties, I’m out of the hood, and my son don’t know the hood,” she said with a laugh.
“Now, have they put all the zeroes on my check that I deserve?” she continued. “That’s the question, but not even for me because I don’t write the checks. I just keep working hard, knowing it will come.”
Henson also talked about what was, at the time, an upcoming trip to the White House, where she would go on to screen Hidden Figures for Barack and Michelle Obama before they left office. “We go back,” she said of the Obamas. “I don’t have them in my speed dial, but maybe after I screen the movie.”
Reflecting on her career, Henson added, “It is quite groundbreaking, isn’t it? It’s supposed to be over for me at 46, but here I am. I’m a late bloomer, and I’m okay with that. Know why?” she asked. “Late bloomers last looong.”