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Washington, D.C., native Taraji P. Henson didn’t always know that her smoldering charisma and beautiful face would make her a professional actress.

On the contrary, she originally studied electrical engineering when she enrolled at North Carolina Agric & Tech. She later transferred to Howard University, where she attended classes while working as a secretary at the Pentagon, and as a singer and dancer aboard a cruise ship. She eventually changed her academic focus to theater and graduated in 1995.

Henson’s career began with appearances on Homicide: Life on the Street and ER, but it really took off when she was cast in a major supporting role in 2001’s Baby_Boyand 2004’s Hustle_&_Flow, in which she also showcased her vocal talents, singing on the track “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” for the movie’s soundtrack, which took home the Best Song Oscar that year. Henson later moved on to take major roles in Smokin’_Aces and Talk to Me. Henson made the most of her work as the mother of the backward-aging man in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and her performance garnered Best Supporting Actress nominations from both the Screen Actors Guild, and the Academy.

Taraji P. Henson: From Howard U To Hollywood's A-List  was originally published on

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