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Taraji P. Henson Gets Candid About Aging And Mental Health: 'I Had No Idea What Was Happening To My Body'

Award-winning actress Taraji P. Henson's 2001 debut in John Singleton's box-office hit Baby Boy opened the door for the Washington D.C. native to achieve massive success on the big screen. Known for breaking ground in Hollywood, since her mainstream introduction, she has gone on to achieve enormous affluence portraying Loretha "Cookie" Lyon in the musical drama television series, Empire, and has starred in blockbuster films such as Hustle & Flow, Think Like a Man, Hidden Figures, and most recently,The Color Purple.

With being a working actress in Hollywood and constantly being in the spotlight, many wonder how one maintains the foundation of who they are, especially for heavy hitters such as Taraji P. Henson. According to Taraji, she maintains her authentic well-being by "Taking vacations, saying no, hanging out with my sister circle, going back to my roots, visiting my family, and hanging out with my grandma, who is about to turn one hundred years old."


However, with an abundance of information readily available across the internet and on social media, studies, and scholars have suggested the negative impact on one's mental and emotional health, causing many to stray away from who they truly are at the core. In this current age of instant gratification and perfectionism, Taraji advises young women to protect their peace and prioritize their well-being by not worrying "about what anyone else thinks."

She also emphasizes, "Make sure you have the information and resources you need to keep yourself prepared and empowered to live confidently, especially when it comes to aging, because, like many women, I'm experiencing changes with my body. Not all of them are fun per se, but they shouldn't have to be debilitating. The truth is, it's normal and completely natural!"

Now, in her latest quest to generate more insight behind perimenopause and maturing, the Howard University alumna has teamed up with Always Discreet to shatter stereotypes associated with "aging and changing bodies as women encounter symptoms such as bladder leaks," Taraji tells xoNecole.

Taraji P. Henson at SiriusXM

Taraji P. Henson

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

"I am super passionate about mental health, and perimenopause can have a huge impact on that. Although I do not experience bladder leaks, I had no idea what was happening to my body when I reached perimenopause. One in two women over the age of 18 experience bladder leaks in their lifetime, yet no one talks about it."

So, if no one talks about these symptoms and their inevitable effects on our bodies, how do we begin to cultivate conversations around this topic to gain more knowledge and better educate ourselves? Taraji encourages women to reach out to their medical providers to help find the best available options and, most importantly, don't be shy about it because "sharing your experience with loved ones is a great first step."

As a champion for change, there's no denying the Golden Globe award winner has utilized her platform throughout the years to enlighten, empower, and educate the masses, especially regarding mental health within the Black community. Her tireless dedication and advocacy for this work stemmed from her own mental health challenges, resulting in a pivotal moment that led to her candid and upfront approach to what was taking place in her life behind closed doors.

"The tipping point that led me to speak more openly about my mental health was when I was in search of help for myself and my son. It was quite difficult looking for a therapist who looked like us, and that was alarming to me. That's a problem because Black people are carrying seven generations of trauma that we've never unpacked, and yet there are no therapists to help us unpack it who understand the struggle."

Feeling compelled to take action to promote awareness in the Black community because "most insurance policies don't cover mental health costs," she started the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. According to the company's website, offerings include "access to localized and black-culturally relevant therapy, wellness resources, and a best-in-class network of professionals."

As a continued result of leading by example in caring for her overall health, Taraji promises to leave "behind all negativity" as we move forward in this new year. "I am leaving behind all the things that stop me from growing into the person I know God wants me to be. What I'm taking into the new year is more space for grace for myself and others as this world gets crazier and crazier every day. We all should work on having more grace for one another."

Taraji's sentiments are echoed as there is an increased interest in our community as many strive to live a more balanced, healthier, happier, and fulfilled life. We're all fighting battles that others may or may not know about, but extending grace is one of the easiest things we can do. And just think kindness doesn't cost or come with a price tag. It's priceless.

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Feature image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Society

 

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