Taraji P. Henson recently popped up at European-loved chocolate brand Kinder Bueno’s pop-up celebrating their U.S. While chopping it up over chocolate in the Sweeteasy—Kinder’s take on the classic speakeasies of the 1920s— the Empire actress got candid about her relationship with former NFL star, Kelvin Hayden, who she’ll be marrying in 2020, her advocacy for mental health awareness and what dish she’s pulling up to the holiday dinner with.
BET: So first things first, since we’re here at the Kinder Bueno pop-up in NYC, is it true that you’re a vegan who makes an exception for milk chocolate?
Taraji P. Henson: In my veganism journey—I did it strict for like about a year solid—vegetarian and then a vegan, plant-based I should say, I got to a place where I wanted to indulge like I couldn't give up chocolate. I couldn't [completely] give up seafood either. Those are things that were really hard. And so then I was like, well, I don't want to live my life denying myself of things, just everything in moderation. So I altered my, diet a bit and it's 90% plant-based. And then my cheat day, I allow myself chocolate and my seafood—the best of both worlds!
So, Kinder Bueno reached out to me and I happened to really like this brand. It's a huge selling chocolate bar in Europe and I lived off of it when I was in China for three months. This is their debut in the U.S. and I'm excited that they wanted me to help launch at this amazing, sweeteasy, which is very much like a speakeasy.
B: Chocolate and romance go hand in hand. Now, you’re engaged and have been together with your fiancé for a while now—What is your “ingredient” to lasting romance?
TPH: Communication. You gotta hear each other and you have to be able to speak each other's love language.
B: How would you say that you handle relationships versus your Empire character Cookie Lyon?
TPH: It depends on the day [laughs]. No, I think Cookie and I are quite different. Like the stuff that she takes from Lucious, I just would never, but that's not my story. I didn't have three children by a man and give up my life for prison. Like I don't think I have that in me to do. I love deep, but not that deep [laughs]. You know, I like my freedom. I think that's where we differ. I'm going to get into the situation is healthy for me.
B: Switching gears a bit, you’ve been very vocal about dealing with depression and just on mental health issues in general this year. How do you cope during the holidays when stress and anxiety levels can spike? Any techniques you put into practice?
TPH: When I have moments when I feel the darkness creeping in, that's what I like to call it, I have friends that I can call on that, that'll pull me out of it. Sometimes I'll find it hard to motivate myself to work out. I have a friend I can call, that will come make me get up and go work out. I meditate. I am into aroma therapy. I’m into sound therapy. So I play Tibetan music singing bowls and that helps a lot.
You just have to find what works for you. You know, you should absolutely seek a therapist. Your friends are not your therapists. They are very biased, and they have stakes involved in you. So sometimes their opinion can be skewed a bit. So that's why it's important to seek a professional, someone who studies human behavior and the human mind.
B: Speaking of the holidays, what’s your holiday table must-have?
TPH: You got to have greens and they better look good! They gotta look right. A holiday with no greens is no holiday at all. You got to have collard greens. Am I right though? When I step in, I want to know what the greens are looking like cause I could work with everything else if I have a good plate of greens. Like if everything else sucks, great. If the greens are good. I'm all right.
B: Would you bring the greens?
TPH: Yes! I get a lot of requests for my greens.
(Photo: Michael Simon)
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