Taraji P. Henson once revealed that filmmaker Tyler Perry was the first person to pay her $500,000 for a movie role. The actress also opened up about a bold move she made to increase her pay on FOX’s “Empire.”
Henson is undoubtedly one of the best Hollywood talents out there, and even though the celebrity can now be ranked A-list, it was not always so.
Taraji P. Henson at the SiriusXM Studios on Oct. 6, 2017 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images
Henson’s career dates back to the ‘90s, but in a recent sit-down with “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Ellen Pompeo for Variety Magazine, she revealed her first half a million check came much later.
After Pompeo pointed out that Henson’s pay should have shot up following her performance in 2005’s “Hustle & Flow,” the latter clarified that it did not.
“I think the industry knew I was talented. But it’s about money. Are you bankable? I had to continuously prove that. I’ve been trying to prove and improve. I was asking for half a million. I didn’t get paid that until I did my first Tyler Perry film. He was the first person who paid me $500,000.”
Henson’s first Tyler Perry movie was 2008’s “The Family That Preys,” so that should provide some insight into how long it took the African-American actress to achieve the milestone.
“I was never in a position where I could not take a job; by the grace of God, they have all been really good characters,” she added. “But it was never a situation where I was like, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ Now, I’m finally there.”
Henson continued to lament the racial pay gap prevalent in Hollywood, how black movies don’t get big budgets, and how the powers that be seem to want an “incredible performance for a discount price.”
Taraji P. Henson at Build Studio on March 26, 2018 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images
After booking “Empire” in 2015 and observing the public reaction to her character “Cookie,” the actress said she had to stand up for herself.
“When all the tweets were about Cookie, I said, ‘It’s time to renegotiate. Can everybody sit down at the table, please?’ I’d been in the game long enough to know the numbers game, and I knew Cookie had become iconic. You need her. So I need my money.”
FOX announced recently that “Empire’s” upcoming sixth season would be its last, but Henson has made giant career strides in the time since the show’s been running, including receiving her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this year.
Away from her professional life, Henson’s name was splashed across headlines in May 2019 after basketball player Lamar Odom, who was previously married to reality star Khloe Kardashian, revealed that he briefly dated the actress.
Odom, who also has a history of substance abuse and infidelity, said his time with Henson was “one of the happiest times” of his life, but she “refused to be just another conquest.”
The athlete made the revelation in his new memoir “Darkness to Light,” adding that the relationship came to an end after he cheated on Henson.
Henson, who is now engaged to former NFL player Kelvin Hayden, has not addressed Odom’s statements.