Taraji P. Henson, star of “Empire,” “Hidden Figures,” and “Baby Boy” spoke to SELF magazine on Tuesday about stardom and suffering.
Just because we love Henson’s portrayal of strong black female characters doesn’t mean that she feels strong all the time.
Henson believes it’s dangerous and impractical to force a false sense of invincibility upon anyone, especially black females who are often viewed through the lens of the “strong black woman” trope.
“There are times where I feel absolutely helpless,” Henson says. “That’s human. Everybody feels like that. Just because I’m a black woman, don’t put that strong superhero thing on me.”
Henson reveals in the interview that her anxiety symptoms spiked after the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. Henson’s son Marcell, like Trayvon Martin, is a young black man who has to deal with the fear of excessive police violence and profiling.
At the time of Trayvon’s murder, Marcell was about the same age as the victim. Henson says, “That’s when I noticed anxiety started kicking in. They’re not going to recognize [Marcell] out here on these streets. It’s me that is the star. He’s not.”
Marcell was born in 1994. His father was Henson’s high school sweetheart, William Lamar Johnson, who was tragically murdered in 2003. Henson’s own father also passed away in 2006.
“All my life I’ve been bubbly and the life of the party,” Taraji says. “Things started to shift for me when Trayvon Martin—when that happened.”
Henson says her anxiety manifests through heart palpitations, sweating, nervousness, helplessness, and racing thoughts.
It can be scary to talk openly about your mental health, but we love when celebs like Taraji P. remind us all that we’re not alone.
And just like us, even though she struggles, Henson has a lot to look forward to. In May of last year, she became engaged to former NFL player Kelvin Hayden, who is 36 years old. Go Taraji!
“Empire” is in its sixth and final season, but we know we’ll be seeing lots more of Henson’s stellar acting performances in the years to come.