Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson
-Hidden Figures- Film Celebration (NHQ201612100020) (cropped).jpg
Henson at the premiere of
Hidden Figures in 2016
Born
Taraji Penda Henson

(1970-09-11) September 11, 1970 (age 48)
Alma materHoward University
Occupation
  • Actress
  • author
Years active1992–present
Children1
AwardsFull list

Taraji Penda Henson[1][2] (i/ 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 playing a sex-worker in Hustle & Flow (2005) and a single mother of a disabled child in David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008); for the latter, she received Academy Award, SAG Award and Critics Choice Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress; for the former, she received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture nomination. 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 in series such as The Division, Boston Legal and Eli Stone. In 2011, Henson starred in the Lifetime Television film Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story, which earned her a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.[3] 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. Henson went on to star in the ensemble film Think Like a Man (2012) and its 2014 sequel. In 2015, she began starring as Cookie Lyon on 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 two 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.[4] Also that year, she received praise 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.[5]

Early life and family

Taraji Penda 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.[1][2][6][7] She has two younger siblings, Shawn and April.[8] Henson has often spoken of the influence of her maternal grandmother, Patsy Ballard, who was her date to the Academy Awards the year she was nominated.[9][10][11][12] Her first and middle names are of Swahili origin: "Taraji" means hope and "Penda" means love.[13][14] According to a mitochondrial DNA analysis, her matrilineal lineage can be traced to the Masa people of Cameroon.[15] She has said that North Pole explorer Matthew Henson was "the brother of my great-great grandfather."[6][16]

Education

Henson graduated from Oxon Hill High School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in 1988.[1] She then attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where she intended to study electrical engineering before transferring to Howard University to study drama.[10][12] 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.[17]

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