Born: September 12, 1970
Date of Birth: September 12, 1970
Born and raised in Washington D.C., Taraji Penda Henson first envisioned herself as an engineer, and studied electrical engineering at North Carolina Agric & Tech, but changed the course of her career when she failed Pre-Calculus. She soon discovered her flair for the dramatic however, and enrolled in the Theater Arts program at Howard University. During the time she was working towards her degree, she worked as a secretary at the Pentagon and as a singing/dancing watress on a dinner cruise ship.
In 1995, she both graduated and gave birth to a son, whose father died unexpectedly two years later. After moving to Los Angeles, Henson began making guest appearances on television shows such as ER, Smart Guy, Felicity and Pacific Blue. Her feature film breakthrough came with a leading role in Baby Boy (2001). She then landed the recurring role of Inspector Raina Washington on Lifetime Television's crime drama The Division. Her next big film role was in Hustle & Flow (2005), and her talent did not go unnoticed, as she won a Black Movie Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role and a Black Reel for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
Moving effortly between the big screen and the small screen, Henson garnered a lead role in 2007 as attorney Whitney Rome on ABC's Boston Legal. But her biggest role to date came when she was chosen to play Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) alongside Brad Pitt. In the film, her character runs an old-folks' home in early-20th century New Orleans. Her performance earned her an Oscar nomination, and an Image award.
Since then she's appeared in I Can Do Bad All by Myself (2009), earning her another Image nomination, and played Jaden Smith's mother in The Karate Kid (2010). In 2012, she appeared in the comedy Think Like a Man, based on the bestselling book by comedian Steve Harvey. More recently, she starred in the comedy Think Like a Man Too (2014), No Good Deed (2014), and stepped into the role of Cookie Lyon in the highly successful series Empire. For her work in the series, which began in 2015, she won a Golden Globe and received two Emmy nominations.
Her latest film is Hidden Figures (2016), for which she earned rave reviews.
Henson, who was voted one of "The 10 Sexiest Women of 2001" by the readers of Black Men magazine, lives in Glendale, California with her son, Marcel.