Taraji P. Henson Has Had Enough Disrespect

Taraji P. Henson isn’t done speaking out about the ways Black women are disrespected in the entertainment industry. In an interview with the New York Times, Henson was more than candid about racism in Hollywood, including unfair pay and working conditions.

Henson said that she was made to audition for The Color Purple, despite being director Blitz Bazawule’s first choice for the role. When asked, she couldn’t remember the last time she was made to audition. “At this point I’m a Golden Globe winner and Academy Award–nominated,” Henson told the Times. “So I went in there with a chip on my shoulder because I was like, ‘You will never second-guess me again.’” Once she actually got the part of Shug Avery, she says she almost walked away from the film due to contract negotiations.

“I haven’t had a raise since Proud Mary and I still didn’t get a raise,” Henson said, referring to the 2018 action film. “They don’t care, they’re always looking for a deal and trying to pay you the least amount.”

The disrespect did not end once the contracts were signed, though. Henson recalled having to fight just to get someone to drive her and her castmates to set:

They gave us rental cars, and I was like, “I can’t drive myself to set in Atlanta.” This is insurance liability, it’s dangerous. Now they robbing people. What do I look like, taking myself to work by myself in a rental car? So I was like, “Can I get a driver or security to take me?” I’m not asking for the moon. They’re like, “Well, if we do it for you, we got to do it for everybody.” Well, do it for everybody! It’s stuff like that, stuff I shouldn’t have to fight for.

Henson added that the racism in the industry is also a poor business strategy. “With Black films, they just don’t want to take us overseas and I don’t understand that. Black translates all over the world, so why wouldn’t the movies?” she asked. “I have a following in China of all places. Y’all not going to capitalize on that? Don’t everybody want to make money here?”

Even when Henson was on Empire — a megahit show anchored by her performance — she couldn’t get respect. The actress told the Times that she was fighting for “trailers that wasn’t infested with bugs.” When she walked over to the neighboring set of Chicago P.D., she saw that they had the “nice” trailers.

“I’m tired of Black women having this conversation, and I’ll be glad when it’s a different conversation we’re having,” Henson said. Luckily for us, she refuses to give up, despite the incessant disrespect. “I said all of that, just to say I can’t quit,” she said.

Taraji P. Henson Has Had Enough Disrespect