Taraji Penda Henson ( tə-RAH-jee; born September 11, 1970) is an American actress and author. She studied acting at Howard University and began her Hollywood career in guest roles on several television shows before making her breakthrough in Baby Boy (2001). She received praise for her performances as a sex-worker in Hustle & Flow (2005), for which she received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture nomination; and as a single mother of a disabled child in David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), for which she received Academy Award, SAG Award and Critics Choice Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress. In 2010 she appeared in the action comedy Date Night, and co-starred in the remake of The Karate Kid.
Henson has also had an extensive and successful career in television, including series such as The Division, Boston Legal and Eli Stone. In 2011, she starred in the Lifetime Television film Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story, which brought her a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. From 2011 to 2013, she co-starred as Detective Jocelyn Carter in the CBS drama Person of Interest, for which she won an NAACP Image Award. She starred in the ensemble films Think Like a Man (2012) and its 2014 sequel. In 2015 she began starring as Cookie Lyon in the Fox drama series Empire, for which she became the first African-American woman to win a Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series. She also won a Golden Globe Award; and was nominated for Emmy Awards in 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, Time named Henson one of the 100 most influential people in the world. That year, she released a New York Times best selling autobiography titled Around the Way Girl. Also that year, she was praised for her starring role as Katherine Johnson in the critically acclaimed drama film Hidden Figures, for which she won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.