In real life Taraji P Henson has undertaken the roles of mother, Pentagon secretary, graduate and singer, but it is for her performance in Brad Pitt vehicle The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button that she is known.
Taraji Penda her name means hope and love in Swahili was born in Washington DC in September 1970 to department store manager Bernice and janitor Boris Henson. Although she initially set her heart on a career in showbusiness, she changed tack and began studying electrical engineering after being rejected by an acting programme. She lasted just a year on the course.
Working two jobs to pay the fees - as a secretary at the Pentagon in the morning and as a singing/dancing waitress on a dinner cruise ship at night in 1995 she enrolled at Washington's Howard University to study theatre arts. She'd not long embarked upon the course when she was faced with another steep learning curve that of motherhood after her son Marcel was born.
After she graduated, mum and son relocated to LA - a move which paid dividends. Early parts in TV shows such as Smart Guy
were followed by the role of an inspector in The Division
, a TV series about an all-women police team. And she notched up further credits guest starring in CSI
, Boston Legal
and Jonny Lee Miller vehicle Eli Stone
Taraji made her singing debut in 2005 flick Hustle & Flow
, providing the vocals on a track by American rap-group Three 6 Mafia. The collaboration, entitled It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp
, brought her first brush with the Academy Awards when it earned the best original song Oscar. And Taraji was there with the group when they took to the stage at the ceremony to perform it.
Recognition for her acting was not far behind. She already had film credits for urban drama Baby Boy
, Smokin' Aces
, and Mark Wahlberg vehicle Four Brothers
under her belt when in 2009 she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role as Brad Pitt's mother in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button