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ABFF 2015: Taraji P. Henson Gets Candid on Fear, Having a Baby in College, Hollywood Struggles, Career Goals, Oscar, ‘Empire’ + More

June 16, 2015
Cookie Lyon

Taraji P. Henson has been well known and loved in the Black community since her portrayal of Yvette, in John Singleton’s “Baby Boy” (2001). However, it was the unprecedented success of Fox’s hip-drama “Empire” that made her a household name around the world. This past weekend, at the 19th Annual American Black Film Festival. ABFF’s 2015 Ambassador Taraji P. Henson sat down with Gayle King to talk about her long running career, dating, raising her son and what she wants most of all.  Here are some of the highlights, and Shadow and Act attended.

Here are some highlights from the conversation:

On going From Electrical Engineering to Acting

– What had happened was I auditioned for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the tenth grade, and I didn’t get accepted.  My best friend did, isn’t that horrible? I took it to heart. I thought that meant I could not act, so I stopped acting. When it was time to go to college I knew I had to go to school, so I just said electrical engineering because it sounded like I could make a lot of money.  But, I was terrible at math. Acting was still in me, but I was just afraid.

On Fear

– When I was at A&T I had to pass the fine arts building to get to my English Class. One day, I walked passed and they had an audition for a play and I was like ‘I’m gonna do it.’ And I got my monologue, and I remember standing on that stage and the only thing I kept hearing in my head was ‘No’. I was nervous and my hands were shaking, it was horrible. And they said, we’ll put up on the bulletin board the next day who gets the call back. I was so riddled with fear that I never went back to see if I got the call back.

On Growing Up

– I grew up in the hood and I wasn’t the coolest. I was an artist. I was a little quirky and to the left. I dressed a little crazy. But you know, I would set trends I would do kooky things like wear clips in the front of my hair and next thing you know, Peaches and them got clips in the front of their hair.


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Image: Chuck Hodes/Fox