Taraji P. Henson Opens Up About Jussie Smollett’s Case, Mental Health and Unequal Pay in Hollywood: “I’m Not Selling Myself Short”

Over the past few years, many have opened up about their issues with mental illness and the positive effects of therapy, in an attempt to eliminate the stigma within the Black community. In fact, in a recent interview with Variety, “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson divulged her struggles with mental health, and revealed how she’s learned to cope with certain feelings. 

“I suffer from depression,” Henson revealed in the interview, published in honor of Henson’s “Power of Women” nomination for her work on the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, which works to ‘eradicate the stigma around mental health in the African American community.’ “My anxiety is kicking up even more every day, and I’ve never really dealt with anxiety like that. It’s something new.” 

However, in an effort to work through her struggles, Henson said she sits with a therapist regularly. 

“That’s the only way I can get through it. You can talk to your friends, but you need a professional who can give you exercises. So that when you’re on the ledge, you have things to say to yourself that will get you off that ledge and past your weakest moments. It’s a professional — someone who studies the human mind, and someone who has no stakes involved,” Henson said. “Their job is to make sure you’re mentally sound, whatever that is and telling you the truth, which might hurt. Sometimes your friends don’t want to hurt your feelings. If I’m going to change for the better, I need honesty, and sometimes your friends and family don’t have it in them to be brutally honest.”

“It gets frustrating because you’re waiting for them to fix you, but it’s not that easy,” she continued. “I had to go through several therapists that I felt comfortable talking to, or that I felt was moving me forward and that I was making some progress with, and that takes time. I remember the first time I went, I was angry, because I was like, “She didn’t tell me nothing! She didn’t tell me anything!” You’re not going to figure it all out in one sitting.

As the interview continued, Henson opened up about the effects social media has on her mental health, and how she’s learned to combat the negativity of the apps, all while maintaining a relationship with her fans from a distance. Elsewhere, she talked privacy as a celebrity, how “Cookie Lyon” catapulted her to superstardom and how the Jussie Smollett’s changed the cast and crew of “Empire” forever.

“We’ll never be the same. No one will ever be the same. Forever changed. And it’s sad,” she said, as she explained how she’s able to be strong during the tough time. “You’ve just got to be strong because the devil wants you weak, and the devil wants to catch you in a vulnerable moment and make you believe things that aren’t true. I just stay strong. I know what side I’m on: I’m on faith’s side. I’ve got God, I know I’m a good person, so I just stay in that lane because powers that be and other sources from the outside can make you think things, but when you know what you know, you stay there right where you know what you know. I just hold onto my truth.”

In addition to that, Henson discussed the plight of the black woman, unequal pay and stereotypes in Hollywood, representing the culture and much more. 

“I’m not selling myself short. If you want a discount performance, go get it. They’re out there. But you’re not getting it from me. I deliver, and I have the track record to prove it,” she said, as she revealed she even had to fight for higher pay on “Empire.” “It was a no brainer. It wasn’t a huge fight. They got it right away. It wasn’t long and drawn out.”

“It’s not up to one person to represent one culture,” she said, in reference to the recent success of diverse storytelling. “At all. Ever. It should never look like that. Look, I’m not Asian, but “Crazy Rich Asians” appealed to me. That movie blew me away. I connected to that movie on a real human level. I understood it. I didn’t have to be Asian to understand it. It was a good f—ing movie, and people like good movies – it doesn’t matter the color. So, we’re learning that. It took us a minute.”

Check out the full interview at Variety.com.

About MsJennyb

Jen is a Writer and Content Curator for Baller Alert, who writes under the alias “MsJennyb.” In this role, Jen develops and contributes relevant special-themed content to attract readers. Before joining the Entertainment Industry via Baller Alert, Jen spent one year as a Freelance Writer and two years as a Human Resources assistant in a corporate office. Jen has a degree in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University with a concentration in Africana Studies.

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