Opinion: Taraji P. Henson Had Every Right To Complain About Pay Disparity

Amidst internet speculations and unfounded controversies, the spotlight on 'The Color Purple' has shifted from its powerful narrative to unnecessary disputes.

Thanks to too much internet speculation and some folks’ need to pit women against each other, much of the conversation surrounding the film version of the Broadway adaptation of The Color Purple has focused on Taraji P. Henson’s promotional interviews rather than the movie itself.

“I hope they can focus back onto this film, because right now, to me, it feels like what I said is now becoming louder than this beautiful film,” Henson recently said in a statement to

“And that’s not fair to me, or anybody in the film,” Henson added, “because the film deals with women who are oppressed — who live in an oppressed system. Men and women. And all the characters in that film except for the white people. So that movie is about healing. That movie is about sisterhood.”

Black Excellence Shines Bright in Oscar Nominations

Last month, in an interview with Gayle King on SiriusXM, Henson was asked about past comments she’s made about pay disparities in Hollywood in light of them resurfacing online and revealed that she had been underpaid for most of her career and is “tired” of it – so much so that she may stop acting altogether.

"It seems every time I do something and break another glass ceiling, when it's time to renegotiate, I'm at the bottom again like I never did what I just did and I'm just tired,” she explained. “I'm tired.”

Following these comments and similar ones about some of the conditions the actors had while shooting, the public looked for someone to blame. For many, they turned to Oprah Winfrey, one of the film's executive producers.

Even though one, Taraji, also stated in many of these same interviews that Oprah came to her aid when called, and two, being an executive producer doesn’t mean you are responsible for the day-to-day workings of a film’s production.

That would be the studio, but most people don’t know that and, sadly, don’t have the intellectual curiosity to look that fun fact up before lashing out online. Making matters worse for the film’s publicists was the viral clip of Oprah posing with the stars of The Color Purple on the Empire State Building’s observation deck, which somehow became evidence that Oprah and Taraji are beefing. 

Self-appointed body language experts all over the internet claimed Oprah’s interactions with Fantasia Barrino-Taylor and Danielle Brooks looked so much different than with Taraji.

It got so bad that Oprah herself had to tell ET’s Kevin Frazier earlier this month: “I would just like to say about this whole Taraji thing … I heard I was trending yesterday. People are saying that I was not supporting Taraji. Taraji will tell you herself that I’ve been the greatest champion of this film. Championing not only the behind-the-scenes projection but also everything that everybody needed. So whenever I heard that there was something that someone needed, I’m not in charge of the budget because that’s Warner Brothers you know that’s the way the studio system works.”

Taraji has told us this but repeated it with 

“You know, she called me, she called me personally,” Henson tells “Not my team, not my people — me. And asked me, ‘Taraji, if there’s anything you need, you let me know.’ And I said it with a shaking voice, I was like, ‘Well, yeah,’ — since she asked. And I told her and she fixed everything the next day.”

But again, Oprah was not responsible for any of this. 

As for their imaginary beef, she added,  “And what you’re not gonna do is pit two Black women together — not on my watch.

Unfortunately, that’s already happened, and regrettably, so much attention has been paid to problems that only existed in the imaginations of an uninformed, bored public on social media (and then further exploited by outlets in need of patronage).

Taraji is right to say that people are not being fair to her – especially those who fault her for all of this when she has been complaining about not being paid her fair share since she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

It’s not her fault the problem has only worsened, and people have turned to her past words to articulate their frustrations. She should not be blamed for continuing to speak out against a problem she has to overwork to deal with literally. She can’t control how the public reacts to her remarks either.

It’s frustrating to see how much oxygen these internet-generated distractions have taken from the movie itself, and I’m sad that the movie is now being spoken of as a flop. It’s not the best sign for a film released on Christmas Day to be made available for rent and purchase this early, but I hope people take it as an opportunity to see the film in the comfort of their homes and judge it for themselves. 

I am not the biggest fan of musicals, so I will not say it is a perfect film. What I can say, though, is that The Color Purple offers outstanding performances, sublime choreography, and exceptional singing. And for what it’s worth, it’s been a long while since I've been inside of a movie theater and seen people beside me cry and laugh at what they saw on screen. 

The people who put this movie together should be supported, not be pitted against each other.

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.