Taraji P. Henson Biography

Taraji Penda Henson is an African-American actress and singer. This biography profiles her childhood, life, acting career, achievements and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: September 11, 1970

Nationality: American

Famous: Black Actresses African Americans

Age: 49 Years, 49 Year Old Females

Sun Sign: Virgo

Also Known As: Taraji Penda Henson

Born in: Washington, D.C.

Famous as: Actress, Singer

Height: 5'5" (165 cm), 5'5" Females


father: Boris Henson

mother: Bernice Gordon

children: Marcel Henson

More Facts

education: Howard University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Oxon Hill High School

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Taraji Penda Henson is an African-American actress and singer. A Howard University student, her professional career began as Mo'Nique in television show ‘Smart Guy’. After several television shows and a couple of movies she landed up with her breakthrough film, ‘Baby Boy’ that earned her the ‘Bet Awards’ and the ‘Black Movie Awards’. Her acting prowess continued with films like ‘Hustle and Flow’, ‘Four Brothers’ and ‘Talk to Me’ that earned her nominations in several award programs. She was nominated for the ‘Oscars’ as ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for essaying the character of Queenie in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’. She was also a part of movies like ‘Date Night’, ‘The Karate Kid’, ‘Think Like a Man’ and its sequel ‘Think Like a Man Too’. Taraji Penda Henson got a nomination in the category of ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie’ at the ‘Primetime Emmy Award’ for playing the lead in ‘Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story’. She has balanced her career in television along with her big screen stints. Some of her television series include ‘The Division’, ‘Boston Legal’ and ‘Person of Interest’.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Taraji P. Henson was born on September 11, 1970, in Washington, D.C. in the family of Boris Lawrence Henson and Bernice Gordon. In Swahili language her first name ‘Taraji’ means hope and her middle name ‘Penda’ means love.
  • Her father was a metal fabricator and mother was a corporate manager. Her parents parted ways when she was just two. She is related to the late explorer Matthew Henson.
  • She wanted to study at the ‘Duke Ellington School for the Arts’ at Washington but was unsuccessful. Following the setback she joined the ‘Oxon Hill High School’ and completed her graduation in 1988.
  • She took up electrical engineering at the ‘North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’. Following her failure in pre-calculus, she took a transfer at the ‘Howard University’ to pursue theatre.
  • To support her education she simultaneously took up two jobs in shifts. While she served at ‘The Pentagon’ as a secretary in the morning, she worked at the ‘Spirit of Washington, as a cruise-ship entertainer in the evenings.
  • She earned a ‘Triple Threat Scholarship’ at the ‘Howard University’. In 1995, she received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts.
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  • In 1997, she made her acting debut with the television show ‘Smart Guy’. Some of her early television works include series like ‘ER’ (1998), ‘Sister, Sister’ (1999), ‘Division’ (2002-2004), ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2006) and ‘Boston Legal’ (2007-2008). Her first television movie was ‘Murder She Wrote: The Last Free Man’ (2001).
  • The first couple of film releases of Taraji P. Henson include ‘The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle’ and ‘Satan's School for Girls’ in 2000.
  • In 2001, she landed up with her breakthrough film, ‘Baby Boy’, a comedy drama that earned her the ‘Best Actress’ and ‘Best Supporting Actress’ at the ‘Bet Awards’. She also received the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ award at the ‘Black Movie Awards’.
  • Moving on in 2005 she played Shug, a prostitute in the ‘Oscar winning independent film ‘Hustle & Flow’. She also lent her voice for the film’s song ‘It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp’. She got nominated for her role in the ‘NAACP Image Awards’, ‘MTV Movie Awards’, ‘Screen Actors Guild Awards’ and also by the ‘Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association’. The film raised her bar as an actress in the entertainment industry.
  • Her steady progression in films continued with playing main parts in films like ‘Smokin' Aces’ and ‘Talk to Me’ in 2007.
  • She was nominated at the ‘Oscars’ as well as at the ‘Screen Actors Guild’ among various other nominations for essaying the character of Queenie in the 2008 film ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’. She was cast opposite Brad Pitt in the film that won her three awards which include ‘Austin Film Critics Association’, ‘BET Awards’ and ‘NAACP Image Awards’.
  • She portrayed her acting skills as a character artist in films like The Family That Preys (2008), I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009), Date Night (2010) and ‘The Karate Kid’ (2010).
  • In 2011, she played the character of a real life woman Tiffany Rubin in the film ‘Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story’. She not only received positive reviews but also won the ‘BET Awards’, ‘NAACP Image Awards’ and ‘Black Reel Awards’ for her outstanding performance apart from several nominations including the ‘Primetime Emmy Award’.
  • She essayed the character of Detective Jocelyn "Joss" Carter in ‘Person of Interest’, a crime-suspense television series aired on the ‘CBS’. She was part of the series for two and a half years from 2011 to 2013.
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  • She played Lauren Harris in the 2012 film ‘Think Like a Man’ that included a comprehensive ensemble cast and also in its 2014 sequel, ‘Think Like a Man Too’.
  • She remained consistently successful in the wide range of characterisations in different films that reflects her flexibility as an actress. In 2014 she played Terri Granger in the film ‘No Good Deed’ and earned the ‘BET Awards’, ‘Critics' Choice Television Awards’ and two ‘NAACP Image Awards’.
  • From January 7, 2015 till present day she essays the main role as Cookie Lyon in the new television musical drama series ‘Empire’. The series has become a commercial success and earned her a ‘Critics' Choice Television Award’ in the section of ‘Best Actress in a Drama Series’. While it received positive reviews, her work won her critical acclaim and widespread popularity apart from a nomination for ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series’ in the July 2015 ‘Primetime Emmy Award’.
  • In 2015, she hosted one episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’ and on March 16, 2015 she co-hosted the show ‘Live! with Kelly and Michael’ in the absence of Kelly Ripa.
  • Apart from doing films and television she also appeared in many music videos including ‘Testify’ and ‘Stay’.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • She became pregnant during her college and gave birth to her son Marcell in 1994. The father of her son was his high-school sweetheart.
  • Her matrilineal lineage has been traced to the Masa people of Cameroon.
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Humanitarian Works
  • She is an advocate of the cause of ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA). She has done a couple of ads for ‘PETA’ including posing nude for the campaign ‘I'd Rather Be Naked Than Wear Fur’ in January 2011 and accompanying her dog Uncle Willie for the campaign ‘Be an Angel for Animals’ in 2013.
  • She was part of the ‘NOH8 Campaign’ ad in February 2015 that supports same sex marriage.

1. Hidden Figures (2016)

  (Drama, Biography, History)

2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

  (Fantasy, Romance, Drama)

3. Hustle & Flow (2005)

  (Music, Drama, Crime)

4. Think Like a Man (2012)

  (Romance, Comedy)

5. Talk to Me (2007)

  (War, Drama, History, Music, Biography)

6. Four Brothers (2005)

  (Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Action, Crime)

7. Something New (2006)

  (Drama, Comedy, Romance)

8. Baby Boy (2001)

  (Crime, Thriller, Drama, Romance)


Golden Globe Awards
2016 Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama Empire (2015)
MTV Movie & TV Awards
2017 Best Hero Hidden Figures (2016)

See the events in life of Taraji P. Henson in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Taraji P. Henson Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- November 26, 2017
Taraji P. Henson

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