Today, Taraji P. Henson is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood with more money, awards and acclaim than she knows what to do with. But a little less than 10 years ago, long before she became Cookie Lyon, she was one of a handful of Black actresses struggling to be taken seriously in the cutthroat film business.
In fact, Taraji writes in her new memoir Around the Way Girl that even her breakthrough role, as Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, wasn't all she thought it would be.
In the book, Henson details how her breakthrough role was not all it was cut out to be — especially when it came to her bank account.
Henson recounted that she received "the equivalent of sofa change" for the high profile role, saying that she was paid "the lowest of six figures" despite the fact that she had third billing after Brad Pitt, and Cate Blanchett. For some inexplicable reason, she was also required to pay for her own hotel room for the three month shoot in New Orleans.
Henson writes that she chose not to push for higher pay because she did not want to risk losing the job to the long line of Black actresses who would jump at the chance to play the part that eventually lead to an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
But, it wasn't all bad, she insists. “My performance of Queenie became transformed into a spiritual awakening, not just for me but also the audiences who watched the film and cheered my performance," Henson wrote.
While her role in the film may not have given Henson everything she expected from it, the Oscar nom was huge for her career and landed her a role in the Tyler Perry film I Can Do Bad All By Myself, and, eventually, the part of Cookie Lyon on Empire. Taraji's paycheck has taken a huge leap, too: she now earns $175,000 per episode of the hit FOX show.
Watch how Taraji celebrated her 46th birthday at TIFF with BET Breaks, above.
(Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images)