Taraji P. Henson, “Around the Way Girl” autobiography and my takeaways post 2 of 2. Post 2 will highlight Taraji’s experiences as a single mother, as a black actress, and about her being fearless.
In Taraji’s words: Of course, my mother saw my pregnancy a little differently. When I told her the news, she freaked out. It was, “Oh my God, this is the end of your career!” and “Oh my God, your life is over!” She threw in “Oh my God, how will you manage all this?”
I truly realized the strength of Taraji when she moved to LA when she was speaking with her manager for the first time and he asked about her son and how was she able to able to pursue her acting career. “Where’s your son?” he asked when, finally, I took a breath. “He’s with the babysitter.” “So you brought him out here with you?” he asked, surprised. “Usually actors leave the kids with family until they get on their feet in this business.” “No, he’s right here with me,” I said. “He’s where he belongs.”
Taraji said “I never saw my baby as a roadblock to my goals or a strike against my ability to do exactly what I planned to do with my life; I simply started planning and dreaming about ways I would get what I wanted out of life while I had a baby on my hip. Having my son gave me a laser-sharp focus. That is the miracle of single motherhood”
Taraji went to LA at the age of 26, with a baby, almost zero connections and she made it happened when the world around her didn’t give her a chance. She speaks of the stanky looks she would get from people she would tell them her plans as if they were impossible. It was “the curl of the lip, the narrowed side-eye… the huff of air through nostrils. I’d seen it before. It was that same dismissive “yeah, right” look I got from a few of my classmates when I declared I could both be a mother and graduate college on time. It was the look on those social workers’ faces when I told them I’d be on my feet soon enough. It was on the faces of a few folks, too, when I announced I was leaving everyone I loved and all that I knew to move to Hollywood in pursuit of an acting career. Though I was used to those smirks, they always rubbed me the wrong way, and I never forgot them. But rather than discourage me, they were like gallons of high-grade gasoline adding fuel to my fire. I have faith in God, and I know my purpose, so I have no need to be nasty about it when someone doubts me. I simply put my head down and work hard”
If you don’t have a true appreciation for Tyler Perry then you definitely will after how he stepped in right after didn’t get selected for an Oscar. He called her the next day to check on her and after a few moments he offered her the starring role in one of his movies where he up’ed her pay potential to the point where she says I don’t have to take any bottom of barrel offers anymore and she attributes that to Tyler Perry. She said “It was he who gave me a fair wage to star in his movie, which ultimately raised my quote—the baseline pay I could negotiate going into subsequent movie deals”. He finished the conversation with her and he said “Get your money”.
The part I love most about Taraji is her love for Black women. She said it flat out, “I’m happy when black women win” and it is very evident doing award shows when her friends and other actresses win.
I am going to close with a few quotes and a statement about Black women that Taraji shared: “We are light as your white neighbor and as silky and chocolate as the Congo, thin enough to fit in that double zero and curvy enough to fill out a size twenty-two, stretched tall and really squat, too, with weave down our back and with hair so kinky it’ll break the teeth out of a strong comb. Some of us are sweeter than a Georgia peach and as quiet as a church mouse, and a gang of us are loud as we want to be and quick to verbally slit throats. And this is just a small sampling of us. There is no one way to present a black woman; we have a voice and we have the right not only to have that voice but also to see it reflected back at us on the screen”
“I’m that girl with whom everyday woman identifies. I’m that struggle. Hell, I’m the American dream.”
Of all my girls, though, the best friend I may have is Taraji Penda Henson. I’ve learned to love myself in ways that I simply didn’t when I was younger and more concerned about the care and keeping of others than myself. I’m particular about my energy and I’m protective of my heart, not just with men, but also with friends who seek to do more harm than good in our relationships.
Additional quotes and takeaways related to Taraji’s book:
“This single mother was on a mission not only to make that dream a reality, but also to be the finest example of a success story for my son—to let him know that when I whispered in his ear, “You can be anything, baby,” I wasn’t bullshitting. This, my story, is proof positive of that”
“I steeled myself for the challenge, with this one true mantra: “I’m going to raise a helluva black boy.” That’s the armor I carried with me—the determination to prove every last one of those statistics wrong.”
“I can pull it back and get corporate when I need to, too. But checks are usually attached to that. I have to get paid to be that person. That is not who I am. Catch me at the grocery store, in the park, at a get-together with my friends”
When I wasn’t working on my role, I was still prop mistress, but I continued studying everyone else’s roles, too; I knew every line, every song, every stage direction, where every prop lay. When a fellow student with a key role as a singer in the opening of the play had to drop out, I was ready. Professor Malone took to the stage to announce her part was open, and I jumped at the chance to play it. “I got it! I can do it!”
by Brian K. Rice, http://www.briankrice.com
Mentor, Motivational Speaker