Taraji P. Henson is a force to be reckoned with.
The Washington, DC native has not allowed setbacks to determine her path and has remained firm in her truth to achieve her highest goals.
She's also like the big sister who’s been there, done that, and who you have no choice but to admire. Her path wasn't a traditional route, with her being denied entrance into a performing arts school when she was just 14-years-old. Years later, she pursued Electrical Engineering at North Carolina A&T, but after failing a prerequisite, she decided to pursue her dreams of being an actress, and transferred to Howard University to study Theater and Fine Arts.
An unplanned pregnancy during her junior year could have derailed her goals much further, but Taraji did not let motherhood become an obstacle. She still managed to perform in the school's plays, graduated college, and at the age of 26, she packed up her son and ran off to LA with $700 in her purse. Five years later, she'd see her big break in the John Singleton-directed film, Baby Boy.
Over the next decade, we'd see her in films such as Hustle and Flow, Think Like A Man, No Good Deed, Smokin' Aces and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, as well as the Fox series Person of Interest.
And then came Empire!
Four months before the show made its debut, she revealed to Ebony Magazine:
“I’m still treated like I’m on the D-list. I’m still being considered with actresses who haven’t done half the stuff I’ve achieved. When people tell me no, I get hyped. Because when I prove that I can and will, I love watching people eat crow."
And here we are two years later! The inspiring mom is in the prime of her career with numerous magazine covers, an Emmy nod under her belt, the lead in a box office hit Hidden Figures, and a Golden Globe Award.
They told me 'If you don't hit by 25, you'll never make it.' I will be 46 this year, I am just touching the surface. I am just getting started.
She is a story of persistence and faith. Most importantly, she is a lesson to us all who are complaining and wallowing that if you earnestly work at your passion, the chips will fall. Simply trust the journey.
Here are five empowering life lessons that young women can employ courtesy of big sister Taraji via an interview with Glamour Magazine:
1) You are the sum of your work and effort, not other people’s opinions.
"We went to Paris and screened the pilot [of Empire] for a thousand people. Lee Daniels [the series’ co-creator] brought me onstage. The audience stood up on their feet and clapped. I cried because, for so long in Hollywood, I’ve been told that black women don’t do well overseas, that they can’t open a film overseas. That moment for me was the best moment of my life. That’s better than any trophy, any award, any nomination. You know how they say music can heal the world? I feel that way about art in general."
2) Trust your journey, avoid looking in the rearview.
"I don’t think about other people. They are not walking in my shoes. They are not paying my bills. What makes me happy is when I do what I like to do, for me."
3) Your obstacles are only as big as the power you give them.
"When I got pregnant in college, people said, 'This is it for her.' But I did not stop. I never missed a class. I was in the school musical when I was six months pregnant—we just made the character pregnant. When I graduated, I carried my son across the stage. I wanted to be an actress; I moved out to L.A. with him. People were like, “Are you crazy, moving to California with your son?” My father was like, 'Leave him home.' I said, 'I can’t leave my son at home.' [And eventually] my father said, 'That’s your baby. That’s your blessing. He’s going to be your strength.' And you know what? He was. I didn’t have time to go to the club to "network.” That’s B.S. No business deals go down at the club. So I didn’t get caught up in that. I had a mission. I had to make my dream come true. If I didn’t, what was I proving to my son?"
4) Avoid Situationships! Develop Relationships with partners who are willing to grow with you
"I’m a mother first. I’m not trying to bring this guy and this guy around. I’m raising my son, and he’s gonna respect women, and that starts with me. [Dating] in the spotlight—I have to consider my son. I don’t want to make it uncomfortable for him when he goes to school with his peers. And I have to answer to my mom too.
[Tweet "I know exactly who I am and exactly what I want. And I don’t want a fan."]
I’m not twenty-something. I’m not trying to find myself—I know exactly who I am and exactly what I want. And I don’t want a fan. I want a man who understands me, who challenges me, who calls me on my sh-t instead of letting me get away with it because I’m supposed to be a star. I want a best friend."
5) Fear is a Jedi mind trick that can cripple you if you aren't careful
"Fear will cripple you, fear will kill you, fear will make you believe you’re not worthy. After 17 years in prison, Cookie feels there is nothing to fear. She made it out alive. In her mind that’s how strong she is. We all have that strength inside us. We just have to choose it."