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Taraji P. Henson - Biography

Taraji P. Henson has garnered widespread critical acclaim for her roles in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Hidden Figures

Teraji P. Henson wearing a pink dress and smiling at the camera.
Megan Bull
TV Writer
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Taraji P. Henson's Early Life

Born in Washington DC in September 1970, Taraji P. Henson is the daughter of department store manager Bernice and janitor Boris Henson. Her name means hope and love in Swahili. 

Although the aspiring actress initially set her heart on a career in show business, she changed tack and began studying electrical engineering after being rejected by an acting programme. She lasted just a year on the course, however, and had to work two jobs to pay the fees - as a secretary at the Pentagon in the morning and as a singing/dancing waitress on a dinner cruise ship at night. 

In 1995 Taraji enrolled at Washington's Howard University to study theatre arts. She'd not long embarked upon the course when she was faced with another learning curve, that of motherhood after her son, Marcell, was born. 

Taraji P. Henson's Rise to Stardom

After she graduated, Taraji and her son relocated to LA - a move which paid dividends. Early parts in TV shows such as Smart Guy and ER were followed by the role of an inspector in The Division, a TV series about an all-women police team. And she notched up further credits guest starring in CSI, House, Boston Legal and Jonny Lee Miller vehicle Eli Stone.

Taraji made her singing debut in the 2005 flick Hustle & Flow, providing the vocals on a track by American rap group, Three 6 Mafia. The collaboration, entitled It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp, brought her first brush with the Academy Awards when it earned the best original song Oscar. And Taraji was there with the group when they took to the stage at the ceremony to perform it. Recognition for her acting was not far behind. She already had film credits for urban drama Baby Boy, Smokin' Aces, and Mark Wahlberg vehicle Four Brothers under her belt when in 2009 she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role as Brad Pitt's mother in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.

Critical acclaim continued to follow the actress as she landed the role of famed mathematician Katherine Parker in the biographical drama, Hidden Figures (2016). Revealing her endless versatility, Taraji has also lent her comedic stylings to a number of films over the years, including Think Like a Man (2014), Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018), What Men Want (2019) and Coffee & Kareem (2020). 

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