When asked what the biggest challenge in her career is currently, “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson was honest: getting paid.
“I still have to fight for it,” Henson says. “We live in a world where people are always trying to get a bargain. You can’t bargain on my talent, I’m sorry… I’m not afraid to walk away because I know what I offer.”
The Power of Women honoree sat down with Variety to get candid about the realities of working in Hollywood. “A lot of work needs to be done in Hollywood for equal pay, inclusivity. I need to see more female directors, heads of studios need to change, things need to be all inclusive across the board.”
Henson’s fight to shine a light on difficult topics continues in her charity work with The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, an institution established to “eradicate the stigma around mental health issues in the African American community.”
“I find it very interesting that we can talk about things like breast cancer, or tumors or thyroids,” Henson says. “But overall health — in the black community — we never mention mental health.”
Inspired by the struggles of her father, a Vietnam veteran who struggled with mental health, Henson knows the first step is talking about the issues and, “lifting up the carpet and getting rid of our secrets… we gotta talk about people, it’s OK.”
Henson will be honored at Variety’s Power of Women luncheon on April 5 at Cipriani Midtown in New York, along with Bette Midler, Gigi Hadid, Christiane Amanpour and Kacey Musgraves.