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
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.