7 Things You Didn’t Know About Taraji P. Henson

You know Taraji P. Henson from her long TV and film career from her breakout roles in the films Hustle & Flow and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to her SAG Award winning roles in the acclaimed film Hidden Figures. Taraji is best known as Cookie Lyon, the record company matriarch on the Fox drama Empire. Not only has Taraji been nominated for two Emmy Awards, won a Golden Globe for her work in Empire, she is also the first black woman to win a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series. She was named Entertainer of the Year in 2015 at the 46th NAACP Image Awards. Taraji is more than her prestigious resume and awards. In no particular order, here’s seven things you didn’t know about Taraji P. Henson. 

#1 Love is Taraji’s middle name. Literally! That famous “P” in Taraji’s name is for her middle name, Penda which in Swahili for “love.” And Taraji? That’s Swahili for “hope.” 

#2 Speaking of names, Taraji is used to responding to her Empire character name, Cookie because that was her nickname in college! 


In addition to be an amazing actress, Taraji is also an amazing chili cook! Taraji told Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show that she doesn’t stop at just one chili recipe. She has five! Her biggest chili fan is her friend, R&B icon Mary J. Blige! Mary requests a batch every time she’s in town! 

#4 Not only is Taraji an Oscar nominee for her role in the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, her voice is technically already an Oscar winner! She provided vocals on Hustle & Flow’s “It’s Hard Out Here for A Pimp” which won an Oscar for Best Song in 2006. 

#5 On Live with Kelly and Ryan, Taraji shared her guilty pleasure: king snow crab legs. As a Washington DC native, Taraji grew up on fresh Chesapeake Bay crab and it’s her favorite thing to eat after a long day of shooting or any day! 

#6 At the 2009 Oscars Taraji almost lost a necklace made of $100,000 worth of diamonds. She made everybody stop around her to look for it and it was eagle-eyed Meryl Streep who swooped in and found it! 

#7 Taraji told Time in 2015 that a career highlight is when she lost an Emmy that year to Viola Davis. It didn’t matter to her that she didn’t win. It mattered that a black woman finally won an Emmy for Best Actress. Taraji puts it perfectly: “When a woman wins, it’s like ‘Yes, she’s winning for all of us.” 

A middle initial full of “love,” being known as Cookie before she was known at all, chili connoisseur, an Oscar winning set of pipes, diamond sleuth, champion of both king crab and Hollywood Queens - those are seven things that you didn’t know about Taraji P. Henson!