Actress Taraji P. Henson has played a lot of characters in her 20-year career, but it only took one role to make her famous: Cookie Lyon, the matriarch of an ambitious, dysfunctional family on the hit TV show Empire.
Now Henson has a new memoir out called Around the Way Girl. Don't know what an "around the way girl" is? Henson explains: "Around the way is like saying from the neighborhood, like from the hood." Henson still proudly calls herself an around the way girl; she says the fame and the money haven't changed her.
In the book, the actress shares stories of pushing herself to the top. She describes leaving her hometown of Washington, D.C., for Hollywood with little but the intention to succeed on her own terms. "I never went there with the expectation of failure. I never even thought about that," she says. "If anything, I knew I was going to make a dent in Hollywood and no one would stop me."
That included people who had a pretty narrow idea of how a Hollywood star should look. But Henson didn't care: She didn't want to look like the typical size 00 starlet. (Yes, that's an actual size.) Around the way, she says, curves are valued. Light-skinned black actresses like Halle Berry may get nods from Hollywood now, but even they have to fight for parts — because there aren't a ton of them.
"God bless Halle Berry," Henson says. "Even though Hollywood loves her look, she had to create her own lane. There wasn't a lane for Halle Berry — she had to create that. And I had to create my own lane."