Celebrating Black Excellence: Taraji P. Henson – About To Break The Ageism Glass Ceiling


Laghima Pandey

Taraji Penda Henson is an American actress, singer, and author who began her Hollywood career in guest-roles on several television shows, before making her breakthrough in the movie Baby Boy (2001). The actress has shown her incredible range numerous times, from her first starring role in the 2001 coming-of-age film Baby Boy, to her Oscar-nominated performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, to her comedic turn in 2019’s What Men Want. She has a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Television Award for her role on Empire, not to mention three Primetime Emmy nominations. And earlier this year, Henson made her permanent mark on Hollywood with a star on the Walk of Fame. After countless roles on the big and small screen, and with her 50th birthday approaching, the actress says there’s so much left for her to do.

In one of many interviews, Henson talked about how we place age limits on women in Hollywood, while male actors don’t face the same issue. “Absolutely, men don’t have an age limit put on them at all. They don’t. I have not seen a man stop working because of his age. I haven’t even seen a man stop working because of his receding hairline or his beer gut. So why should women have a limit? That’s what Viola [Davis], Regina King, and I are all fighting for: To break through that ceiling. We’re still talented, why should we stop working?”

The interviewer highlighted the fact that black women specifically have a reputation for aging like a fine wine. Questions arose about how she maintains her appearance, as many see Henson as coming from a category of women who seem to get better with age. She responded by saying that no matter how much of a healthy routine of life one follows, a person is going to age. There is no way around it. People should accept it and try to age as gracefully as possible. “What, you going to freeze yourself, going to walk around on a frozen ice cube? No. you live your life. I laugh a lot, I take a lot of naps, drink a lot of water, and a lot of it is genetics”

She also talked about how there has been a shift in gender disparity. “That’s why you’re seeing all of these movies that are starring women: Ghostbusters and Hidden Figures were both authorized by women, and my movie, What Men Want. That’s what you’re starting to see now that women are moving into power positions.” She had more to say about this issue, “If you’re a man in a power position, I’d want you to hear: Pay me my money. Pay me what I deserve. We deserve it and you need us. The end. I’m only interested in appealing to the men who call the shots.”

Interviewer: How would you finish the sentence, “Life begins at …?”

Henson: Life begins at that first breath you take, that’s when life begins.