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Taraji P. Henson Takes a Stand Against Unequal Pay for Black Women in Hollywood

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Taraji P. Henson has recently made headlines for addressing the challenges black women face in Hollywood, particularly the issue of unequal pay. During a SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview on Dec. 19, the acclaimed actress candidly shared her experience, shedding light on the disparities she encountered, especially after her role as Cookie Lyon in the hit TV drama “Empire.”

Forbes reported that “Empire” was the “most valuable show” on television, generating $125.5 million in ad revenue in 2016. Despite the show’s success, Henson expressed her dissatisfaction with her team, claiming they failed to secure additional roles and endorsements for her after the series ended in 2020.

In a passionate speech about the challenges black women face in the industry, Henson revealed, “Everybody had to f—kin’ go. Where is my deal? Where’s my commercial? Cookie was at the top of the fashion game. Where is my endorsement? What did you have set up for after this? That’s why you all haven’t seen me in so long. They had nothing set up.”

She further disclosed that her team proposed a spin-off show centered around Cookie Lyon, but she insisted it had to be done correctly. “All they wanted was another Cookie show, and I said, ‘I’ll do it, but it has to be right. The people deserve, she’s too beloved for y’all to f—k it up.’ And so, when they didn’t get it right, I was like, ‘Well, that’s it,’ and they had nothing else. ‘You’re all f—kin’ fired.”

Amid emotional moments, Henson addressed the issue of unequal pay for black women in Hollywood, expressing frustration with the disparity. “I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do, getting paid a fraction of the cost,” she stated.

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“I’m tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over. You get tired. I hear people go, ‘You work a lot.’ Well, I have to. The math ain’t math-ing. And when you start working a lot, you have a team. Big bills come with what we do. We don’t do this alone… It’s a whole team behind us. They have to get paid.”

Henson broke down the financial challenges, emphasizing the substantial cuts that go to taxes and the team. “Off the top, Uncle Sam is getting 50 percent. OK, so do the math. Now have $5 million. Your team is getting 30 percent off what you gross, not after what Uncle Sam took. Now, do the math. So, I’m only human. Every time I do something and break another glass ceiling, when it’s time to renegotiate, I’m at the bottom again like I never did what I just did, and I’m just tired. I’m tired. I’m tired.”

Expressing weariness from the ongoing struggle, Henson questioned the implications of her experiences. “It wears on you. What does that mean? What is that telling me? If I can’t fight for them coming up behind me,” she stated, gesturing to co-star Danielle Brooks, “Then what the f—k am I doing? I’m sorry.”

While it’s disheartening to witness such challenges faced by a respected actor like Taraji P. Henson, the outpouring of love and support from her audience at “The Talk” showcased the recognition she truly deserves. In a viral video, viewers can witness Henson receiving a standing ovation, a heartwarming moment that brought tears to her eyes.

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