There are many actresses killing it at the moment in Hollywood, but if there’s one that has no problem standing up and speaking her mind it’s Taraji P. Hensen, and she recently spoke up on equal pay in the industry and why she is going to have to get paid what she deserves.
The 48-year-old has been in the industry for over 20 years, finally turning some heads with her Oscar-nominated performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button alongside Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. More jobs soon arrived, most notably in the huge hit Hidden Figures as well as her longtime role on Fox’s Empire. She told Grazia UK, “With Hidden Figures, the fact that role came to me was like, ‘Yes, all my hard work has finally paid off.'” She continued, “It proved I can play anyone — including an incredible mathematician. But Cookie [from Empire] was the role that made people connect all the dots between parts I’d played … It was Cookie who made me an international star.
Earlier on in her career, as a single mother [her boyfriend, the father of her son was tragically murdered], the actress found herself playing small parts for low pay on popular shows like ER and CSI. Even on Benjamin Button, Taraji calculated she earned less than 2% of what the film’s two mega-stars made. “It makes you want to pull your hair out,” she said of the situation. “If I’d let my ego get out of control, I would have missed the bigger picture, which was me going to the Oscars. I proved that I was worth every penny I asked for.” She added, “But I had to be patient, because I knew what I had to offer. I knew that I had to continue doing good work. Whatever project I did, I put my heart and soul into it.”
The What Men Want star also revealed that she has plenty of confidence, which helps her do what she does. “You have to believe in yourself like nothing else,” she explained. “I knew exactly who I was. I knew I was bringing something new and fresh to Hollywood.” And today? Well now she doesn’t have to settle for tiny roles, as she’s one of the most sought after actresses out there. Although Taraji understands that women, especially of color, continue to struggle to get treated fairly.
“It’s always a fight,” she said. “I’m a very determined person. If you want the performance I can bring, you’re going to have to pay me what I deserve.”
Say it louder for those in the back!