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Amid Rumors of Feud With Oprah, Taraji P. Henson Makes Tearful Revelation: Considering Retirement Over Hollywood’s Pay Gap

While promoting her upcoming film, the remake of “The Color Purple,” Taraji P. Henson was in an emotional state recently, revealing that she’s considered quitting acting because, she says, Hollywood underpays Black actresses.

In an interview on SiriusXM with Gayle King on Dec. 19, the actress became teary-eyed when asked about her previous comments about a retirement, leading the video to go viral on social media.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 19: Taraji P. Henson attends the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards at L.A. LIVE on September 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)

“I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do [and] getting paid a fraction of the cost,” she said, becoming emotional. “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 actress who has a career spanning more than two decades.

“The math ain’t mathin’,” Henson, whose net worth is an estimated $25 million, said. 

Henson was accompanied by the film’s director, Blitz Bazawule, and co-star Danielle Brooks in the interview.

King is close friends with Oprah Winfrey, who starred in the original, “The Color Purple.” Winfrey is also a producer of the latest version, a musical version based on the Broadway show.

Retirement Talk

The topic of her retirement came from an interview Henson had with The Hollywood Reporter, published on Dec. 12, when she was retelling how she was auditioned for “The Color Purple”role.

Despite securing a leading part with assurance from the director, Henson revealed that each role she took on posed challenges that nearly led her to give up.

“I’ve been fighting tooth and nail every project to get that same freaking quote,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’ve tried twice to walk away. But I can’t, because if I do, how does that help the ones coming up behind me?”

Color Purple Drama

Due to Winfrey’s role as the film’s executive producer, rumors circulated that she and Henson were secretly feuding over her less-than-desirable pay for the role.

However, Henson, following her viral interview, took the time to thank Winfrey on Instagram, clarifying she has no gripe with the OWN boss.

“Ms. OPRAH has been nothing less than a steady and solid beacon of light to ALL OF THE CAST of The Color Purple!!! She has provided ENCOURAGEMENT, GUIDANCE and UNWAVERING SUPPORT to us all. She told me personally to reach out to her for ANYTHING I needed, and I did! It took ONE CALL… ONE CONVERSATION… and ONE DECISION MAKING BLACK WOMAN to make me feel heard,” Henson said.

Pay Grade Battle

Henson had previously discussed the entertainment industry lowballing her. In a 2019 Variety article, she shared her experience of clearing $40,000 for a role that earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

In the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” released on Christmas 2008 and starring Brad Pitt, Henson was listed as the third actress on the credit roll. Despite her role, she was offered a meager $100,000. Attempting to renegotiate for $500,000 in the David Fincher romantic drama, she only secured a subtle increase to $150,000. 

According to Forbes, she claimed the effective pay was just $40,000 after taxes and team expenses.

Speaking of her team, Henson recently claimed she fired her entire team for not capitalizing on her “Empire” success is making the rounds on social media. The drama aired from 2015 until 2020, and Henson accused her team of not getting her more roles and endorsements.

It was only when Henson began working with Tyler Perry that she started earning $500,000 for a role, citing his recognition of her significance in the industry.

“I was asking for half a million,” Henson said. “I didn’t get paid that until I did my first Tyler Perry film. He was the first person that gave — that broke the standard that I was getting paid for films, and he gave me $500,000.”

In response to her experience of pay disparities, fellow Black actress Gabrielle Union, whose work in the entertainment industry mirrors Henson’s, echoes similar sentiments.

“Not a damn lie told. Not. A. Damn. Lie. We go TO BAT for the next generation and hell even our own generation and above. We don’t hesitate to be the change that we all need to see AND it takes a toll on your mind, health, soul, and career if we’re keepn it 100 (sic),” Union posted on her X, formerly known as Twitter.

Others on social media referenced Black actress and comedian Mo’Nique, who was interviewed by Don Lemon in 2015. The Academy Award-winning actress informed Lemon that she wasn’t blackballed for criticizing director Lee Daniels, but turned down offers due to concerns that accepting low pay would set a detrimental precedent.

What people are saying

5 thoughts on “Amid Rumors of Feud With Oprah, Taraji P. Henson Makes Tearful Revelation: Considering Retirement Over Hollywood’s Pay Gap

  1. Glenn says:

    This is for the people who own the movie production Studios like Universal 20 Century Fox Warner Brothers.
    There’s a market that’s all ain’t tapped into you it’s called black people let me explain you put one of our people in a movie we so happy to see him there we going to go spend the money to see then in the movie so, so when y’all release a movie and y’all say well it didn’t Fair too well at the theaters will you missing out on the demographic that is willing to spend but we don’t see our people in the movie so we reluctant to go spend money when we not represent, when we see one of our people in the movie we wear that badge With Honor rethink your process of selection and I guarantee your box office will blow up big time, cast more black people and leaning and some horny Rose and you’d be surprised

  2. Hdhd klein says:

    People are starving and making less then minimum I have no sympathy for someone making thousands of dollars to play dress up and make believe

  3. Jan says:

    The issue is equitable pay. What black female actresses are saying is that they make a fraction of what their white counterparts earn. Viola Davis, for example, is touted as the black Merl Streep – EXCEPT when it comes to pay. Sitting as a retired female living off social security, I still say: The Hollywood inequity must stop!

  4. Veronica Leflore says:

    Pay the Black women the same pay as you pay the Men

  5. Trayvita Goodson says:

    It’s sad
    discriminates always have
    When it comes to women of color
    Men too
    +they selfish & greedy too
    Very insensitive to our needs
    Prayers to ALL
    I say QUIT‼️if they haven’t changed yet they won’t
    It’s awful
    You have other gifts too find m

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