TOUGH COOKIE

TARAJI P HEN­SON, 44, SETS THE SMALL SCREEN ON FIRE IN THE HIT SE­RIES EM­PIRE – BUT THIS OS­CAR-NOM­I­NATED VET­ERAN HAS HER FEET STILL FIRMLY ON THE GROUND

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - AGENDA -

Taraji al­ways knew she wanted to be an ac­tor even from as young as ve. Grow­ing up in Wash­ing­ton DC, she al­most aban­doned her dream to be­come an elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer. ‘It sounded like I was go­ing to make a lot of money, she says. But pas­sion pre­vailed and she went on to study the­atre at Howard Univer­sity.

Af­ter fall­ing preg­nant while study­ing, Taraji com­pleted her de­gree and moved to Los An­ge­les to pur­sue her dream of act­ing. ‘I never had a nanny I did TV so I could be home with my son, Mar­cel. I wasn t mak­ing my mil­lions, but I was able to ful l my dreams and be a mother.

Her ca­reer kicked off on tele­vi­sion in 1997 with sitcom Smart Guy, and her big-screen break fol­lowed in 001 when she starred op­po­site Tyrese in Baby Boy. In 005, she played Shug in Hus­tle & Flow along­side Ter­rance Howard, with their pal­pa­ble chem­istry spark­ing an on­go­ing pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship.

She was nom­i­nated for an Os­car for her role as uee­nie in 00 s The Cu­ri­ous Case of Ben­jamin But­ton, op­po­site Brad Pitt. ‘I lost, but it was the best time of my life, she says. ‘Brad and An­gelina rushed up to me and said, Are you OK I was like, Yes Can I get some more wine They were more con­cerned about my name not be­ing called than I was.

Her per­for­mance as Cookie Lyon in Em­pire cat­a­pulted her straight into the pop cul­ture spot­light. From memes to mem­o­rable one-lin­ers, there s noth­ing uite like the sashay­ing sass that is the Cookie sig­na­ture. Em­pire started as a rel­a­tively un­der-the-radar se­ries but soon shot to the top of the rat­ings charts. By the nale, more than 17 mil­lion peo­ple tuned in to get in on the Lyons fam­ily drama, with . mil­lion tweets about the show in the space of two hours. Em­pire S2 starts in Septem­ber.

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