The courage of Taraji P Henson: From moving to LA with $700 and a baby to fighting depression and gender pay gap
If there's anything we have learnt from 'Empire' star Taraji. P Henson, it is that true power comes from perseverance. Henson has time and time again spoken about her struggles as a young single mother, starting from scratch in Hollywood and how she refused to listen to naysayers who told her she couldn't make it.
Now, she's opening up about mental health and the realities of being a working woman in showbiz and we can't help but applaud her for her courage, once again.
"I suffer from depression," Henson told Variety in a recent interview, hoping that her honesty would help encourage the conversation.
"My anxiety is kicking up even more every day, and I’ve never really dealt with anxiety like that. It’s something new." Elaborating, she said, "I have to be conscious about everything. Everything. Every move I make, everything that comes out of my mouth. I have to go over it. That’s not living. That’s not just being. Living is being in the moment and saying whatever the f— you want to say and that’s what it is. But I can’t do that. And once upon a time, I could. It’s depressing. I feel myself changing, and I don’t want to. It’s making me a little hard in a way."
The rest of the interview gives you a deeper understanding of the impact fame has had on TV's favorite Cookie and how much she's struggled with it to rise on top, every single time.
While mental health is undeniably something that celebrities who are constantly living in the limelight struggle with, it is her brutal honesty that is what makes her so powerful. Henson is never afraid of letting herself be vulnerable. She never shies away from letting the whole world see her struggles and pain, in the most candid way.
A couple of months ago when she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame she narrated her story - a tale of a 26-year-old woman who got pregnant while in college but had dreams of making it big.
"People thought I was crazy," Henson told in an interview in 2015, "My dad knew that acting was my calling. One day, he looked at me and said, ‘How do you expect to catch fish on dry land?’ So I moved out here with my son with $700 in our pocket," she said explaining how she left her job as a manager in a luxury cruise liner to follow her dreams.
But don't assume that just because she is vulnerable, she is soft. Henson has spoken up countless times about issues that plague women in their professional lives and about the #MeToo movement and how Harvey Weinstein picked Naomi Watts instead of her for a role because she was black.
She's also been open about how she still has to fight the gender pay gap, even after being in the industry for more than two decades. She revealed that in the 2008 Bratt Pitt and Cate Blanchett starrer 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', she was paid much less than her co-stars.
Henson had to settle for $150,000 for the role of Queenie, when she had asked for half a million. She said in the interview that she made "the equivalent of soft change" in the film in comparison to her co-stars.
Ironically, the role ended up earning her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Henson also revealed in the interview that she knew that getting money out of the bosses would be hard considering she was a woman of color.
"I’m a black woman, so I knew it was going to be a fight," she said.
And yet, she marches on.