Taraji P. Henson Reflects On Pay Disparity Uproar During NAACP Image Award Speech

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Taraji P. Henson has taken home an NAACP Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress. She also used her time on stage to thank her supporters for sticking by her after her comments on Hollywood pay disparity got carried away.

On Saturday (Mar. 16), the acclaimed actress was awarded for her riveting performance in 2023’s The Color Purple as Shug Avery. Henson took to the stage for a soul-stirring speech documenting the aftermath of her speaking about unequal pay for Black actresses.

But you know Taraji gon’ speak her mind. So, she also used her acceptance speech to highlight her fans and peers who continued to rock with her throughout all of the headlines.

“This is a surprise. I’m grateful. I just want to thank you all so much for showing up for me so much all the time. You showed up and showed out for me in a big way,” she expressed. “It’s a scary thing to speak your truth, and I urge you all to speak your truth because it’s all we have. But you know what they say, ‘The truth shall set you free.'” Towards the end of the speech, she even shouted out Oprah Winfrey, who she may or may not have had issues with.

Taraji P. previously raised awareness of the industry’s inner workings. During The Color Purple’s 2023 press run, Henson spoke about pay disparity in Hollywood. The actress recalled how the unfair experience almost led her to quit acting for good after reaching a breaking point.

Taraji P. Henson attends the 55th NAACP Image Awards at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on March 16, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
Taraji P. Henson attends the 55th NAACP Image Awards at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on March 16, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

“I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do [and] getting paid a fraction of the cost,” Henson began. “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. 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.”

“When you hear someone go, ‘Such and such made $10 million’—that didn’t make it to their account. Off the top, ‘Uncle Sam’ is getting 50 percent. Now you have $5 million. Your team is getting 30 percent off what you gross, not after what ‘Uncle Sam’ took. Now do the math.”

Earlier in the night, Queen Latifah echoed Henson’s advocacy for her peers and criticism of Hollywood’s pay disparity. The multitalented figure called for Black men to stand with their sisters on this financial issue.

Black women of all generations supported Henson’s criticism of Hollywood. Robin Thede asserted that Henson was “telling the absolute truth” in her rumination.

“70-80% of GROSS income is gone off top for taxes & commissions (agents, managers, lawyers),” Thede typed on X/Twitter at the time. “And for those who pay other employees as well? Babyyyy! The math ain’t math-ing! And I know – you’re like $10M minus $8M is still $2M…Yes that’s true. However, $10M is VERY RARE! Most of your fave Black actresses make about $250k-$500k for STARRING in movies (so $50-$100k net) and might only get ONE project a year.”

Some other folks weren’t so receptive. Vivica A. Fox told TMZ that she couldn’t relate to Henson’s woes. “To each [their] own. I am very happy, very blessed. To each [their] own,” Fox said. “I didn’t have that experience, so…you know. But to get your piece out is important. I totally understand that. And I love my girls for looking out for each other. But…I’m good.”

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