As she finds continued success in Hollywood, there is one thing that Taraji P. Henson would not change: where she came from

The Golden Globe winner and Academy Award winner appeared at the Howard Theatre in Washington D.C. on Oct. 22, for a discussion and signing of her new memoir, “Around The Way Girl,” released earlier this month.


The discussion was moderated by New York Times bestselling author and digital strategist Luuvie Ajayi amid a room full of fans, family members and even actress and director Debbie Allen. Henson detailed her major roles including Cookie on the Fox TV series “Empire” and Queenie from the film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

Asked who her role models are, Henson named performers such as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford—and with perfect timing included fellow Howard University alum Allen.

“This woman taught me that there is no such thing as little roles,” said Henson, noting Allen’s appearances on the TV series “Fame.” “I learned that from this woman. And that’s when I was like I’m going where ever she went—‘Howard, I’m there!’”

Henson also is a1988 alum of Oxon Hill High School in Oxon Hill, MD.

From Academy Award nominee to Golden Globe awardee, Henson has proved to the entertainment industry that she is a singular talent. In her memoir, she describes the challenges she faced as an actress coming into the industry “a** backwards,” as she termed  it. She also delves into family turmoils while growing up in the rough streets of southeast D.C., escaping an abusive relationship from the father of her son and finding her own path as a single mom with only $700 and a dream.

“I didn’t back down,” said Henson. “I didn’t change who I was. I created a lane for me. I kept being told that I was edgy, but when I walk in a room and I’m comfortable, I’m not going to be uncomfortable. I’m an around the way girl, I’m not going to be embarrassed by that, because that’s where I’m from, but that’s not who I am.”

Henson said her realness came from her father, Boris Henson.

“It started with my dad,” she said. “He was unapologetically himself and taught me that being humanly flawed is the most beautiful thing you can be because that’s what we are.”

Henson also credited her best friend with keeping her “grounded.”

“She literally kept me balanced because she spent so much time with me she knew my idiosyncrasies,” said Henson.  

Fear and mistakes don’t play out in Henson’s world. Every role she took was for the better and every obstacle she encountered, she pushed through.

“I don’t believe in mistakes because then I believe in perfection,” she said. “My thing is I’m clear on fear…whenever it comes up I check it, because I know what it is, it’s the devil.”

Henson wants the world to know that, aside from her star-studded role as Cookie, she is still a regular girl from the DMV. She enjoys seafood, kicking back and relaxing.  

“Right now everyone has forgotten all that I have done. All they see is “Cookie,” but that’s not Taraji,” Henson said. “I played a lot of not so pretty roles…I had to prove time and time again that I was pretty.”

Henson said her memoir, which was released Oct. 11 and is available online and in stores, came from a desire to reconcile her complex life.

“I’m just human,” she said. “We’re all too complex to be put in a couple of sentences. That’s why it’s in the book, and I don’t even think this is enough pages.”