|Famous For: Baby Boy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Cookie Lyon in Empire||Currently Known For: Actress, Singer and Author|
Currently Known For Actress, Singer and Author
“Love is the greatest gift that God has given us. It's free.” Coming from humble beginnings in Washington, D.C. where she was raised by a department store manager and a janitor, Taraji P. Henson never imagined a future in show business let alone Hollywood. After graduating from Maryland’s Oxon Hill High School in 1988, she enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where she studied electrical engineering. Along the way, she discovered her passion for the stage and, after her first year, transferred to Howard University to study drama.
Paying her way through college working at The Pentagon as a secretary during the day and as a singing and dancing waitress on a local dinner cruise at night, Henson’s hard work finally paid off when she graduated from Howard University and landed her first major role in the 2001 comedy drama Baby Boy starring Tyrese Gibson. Although the film did little to put her name on the map, it helped jumpstart her career as she went on to star in numerous independent films—like the award-winning Hustle & Flow in 2005—while honing her talents on the silver screen.
In 2008, Henson caught her big break when she starred opposite Brad Pitt as Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. With the film receiving widespread critical acclaim, Henson was nominated for an Academy Award for her breathtaking performance as Queenie, a woman who Henson referred to “as the embodiment of unconditional love.” Despite losing the Oscar, Henson went home a winner as she was finally a household name in Hollywood.
Since starring as Queenie, Henson has appeared in or voiced parts in over 50 projects including films like The Family That Preys, The Karate Kid and Think Like a Man in addition to television series like Boston Legal and Eli Stone. Most recently, she returned to primetime as Cookie Lyon on the Fox drama series Empire, which earned her a Critics’ Choice Award and a Golden Globe as well as an Emmy Award nomination. In addition to her critical acclaim and fame, Henson has amassed an impressive net worth of $6 million with many projecting that figure to reach $10 million in the next few years.
Until then, the 46-year-old actress is more than happy to bide her time living on an annual salary of $400,000 while trying to sell her modest Hollywood Hills mansion. Purchased in 2010 and boasting 4,250 square feet, Henson’s mini-mansion is considerably smaller than some of the neighboring homes, but it still manages to pack in a long list of luxurious amenities including four spacious bedrooms, five bathrooms, a home theater, a full-size dressing room, a complete gym and an outdoor fireplace perfect for cozy gatherings with family and friends. With rumors that Henson is looking to upgrade, she’s lowered the price to a cool $3.25 million with a rental option of only $12,000 per month for those hesitant to commit to life in the Hills.
Beyond her search to upgrade her house in Tinsel Town now that she’s found incredible success on Empire and has even been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2016, Henson definitely isn’t quick to spend her hard-earned cash filling her garage. Choosing to drive around in a modest Lexus Sedan, many were shocked at even that upgrade after Henson ditched her Yukon truck a few years ago. Then again, she’s still leaps and bounds away from the Range Rovers, BMWs and Mercedes-Benz parked in her neighbors’ multi-car garages. So why has Henson remained so frugal despite her blossoming career and rapidly growing bank account?
There might be a simple explanation for the entertainer’s modest lifestyle as her family and friends are quick to say that the actress is anything but materialistic despite her love of staying on top of high fashion and wearing the latest trends. In fact, the Person of Interest star is actually a true philanthropist at heart and has promised herself that she will never forget her childhood growing up relatively poor in Washington, D.C. where her parents set a strong example of the value of hard work.
Today, Henson continues to prove her own work ethic while taking advantage of her privileged position in the spotlight to help those in need by actively supporting a variety of causes, especially those benefiting inner-city youth. Over the years, she has embodied the unconditional love shown by her former Queenie character (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) by generously donating thousands of dollars to dozens of organizations including The Heart Truth, Hope North and a Place Called Home. On top of that, she is also an ambassador with Keep a Child Alive, an organization that helps hundreds of thousands of African Children in their fight against HIV and AIDS.