#TarajiInJozi: 6 things you didn't know about Taraji P. Henson

Image: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

American actress, singer and author Taraji P. Henson is in South Africa again. This time around, she is here for a press tour for the fifth season of the American musical drama TV series Empire. She will also be participating in charity work. Beautiful and giving - a killer combination, we'd say.

1. She is a great cook

The Empire star not only performs on screen but in the kitchen too. And she’s not just your average cook either - Mary J. Blige is a big fan, specifically of her chilli dish. In an interview with Glamour, Henson says cooking is one of her passions. "I love to cook and look for recipes all the time. I make lasagna, great collard greens and I do an amazing Thanksgiving turkey.

“My signature dish is chilli. I make two types: red chilli and a white-bean chicken chilli. Every time Mary J. Blige comes to town, she requests it. She'll say, 'Taraji, are you going to make that chilli?' And when she's out of town, she'll ask me to freeze a bag and her assistant will come pick it up!"

2. She turned down the role of Cookie  in Empire at first.

Henson did not accept the job when it was initially offered to her because she had decided she was done with acting. However, she eventually recognised the value of the role of Cookie, creating one of our fave characters of the drama series. 

3. She was abused by her first love

Henson's baby daddy Mark Johnson was madly in love with her when they started dating. However, after the birth of their son Marcell, Johnson's temper began to show. One night after coming home late, Johnson punched Henson in the face. That was the day she decided to leave and soldier on as a single mother. Johnson was killed in an alleged gang fight in 2003. 

4. Henson didn’t begin acting until college

Image: Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

While in high school, she auditioned for a performing arts school but wasn’t accepted. After failing electrical engineering classes at college, Henson went on to pursue her dream, studying acting at Howard University. 

5. She had to support herself through her undergraduate career at Howard University. 

While doing her degree, Henson worked at the Pentagon during the day and, in the evenings, she was a singing, dancing waitress on a dinner cruise called the Spirit of Washington.

In between university classes, Henson did hair at her apartment charging $20 upwards. She mentioned to Vogue magazine she drew on her experience of how to hustle and make money for her Cookie character.

6. Henson isn’t always a fan of Cookie’s outrageous style

While we might love Cookie's somewhat different wardrobe, Henson does not always. At the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards she told a reporter she no longer wears print because of Cookie. 

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