On the screen, Taraji P Henson is known for playing powerful women with big personalities and even bigger ambitions, so it’s no surprise that she is strikingly similar in real life. The veteran actress, author, and mental-health advocate sat down with SELF Magazine to discuss the current social and political climate, mental health, menopause, and why the idea behind being a “strong black woman” might actually be a myth.
As someone who has experienced the ups and downs of an acting career spanning over two decades, as well as the pressures of womanhood and being a mother, Henson sees her own story as an example of both struggle and triumph:
“I know people see [my story] as strength, but understand it wasn’t easy, and I didn’t walk through it with this cape on my back. It looked like some superhero sh-t, but baby, it was a lot of days where I was screaming into my pillow, crying, second-guessing myself, calling my father. There were [times] where I didn’t know how the story was going to end.”
When asked about her mental health issues, Henson expressed that struggles with anxiety really kicked up after the fatally shooting of African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, in 2012. And the anxiety wasn’t an isolated case or nonsensical concern, either. She noticed that it was generational and shared among other women in her family—especially those who had sons to raise:
“Things started to shift for me when Trayvon Martin—when that happened. That’s when I noticed anxiety started kicking in. They’re not going to [recognize] Taraji’s son out here on these streets. It’s me that is the star. He’s not.”
She goes on to say, “my grandmother is 95 years old. She worries about her children, her children’s children, and her great-grandbabies because she knows that at any given moment you can be picked on or killed for the color of your skin.”
However, Taraji P Henson knows that the many, ever-present internal and external conflicts aren’t a sign of her breaking down, but a testament to what makes her whole:
“I’m a whole black woman, whatever comes with that. All the emotions, all of the rage, the anger, the love, the hurt, the hope, the despair, the strength, the vulnerability. I’m all of that.”
For more of the story, you can read her interview here. In the meantime, check out some gorgeous looks from the shoot below.