At the White House yesterday for a screening of her new movie Hidden Figures, Taraji P. Henson had a few words of advice for the young people in the audience: Don’t complain. “As humans, everybody’s got problems. When you wake up every day, you wake up to obstacles to overcome just in that day. If you don’t have the courage to look fear in the eyes and say, ‘Devil, you will not win,’ what are you going to do?”
While many of Henson’s peers speak out against the sexism and racism in the entertainment industry, she refuses to complain about Hollywood. “I don’t say that 'They don’t do this for black women,’ and that and the third. I just keep working because one day you look up and you’re a Golden Globe winner.“ Henson took home the 2016 Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama Series for Empire.
In her memoir Around the Way Girl, released in October, Henson revealed that she was paid only 2% of Brad Pitt’s salary for her work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — and she had to cover her own travel and lodging during the film’s three-month shoot in New Orleans. She was tempted to turn the job down, but told NPR, “I decided to swallow my pride and use it in the work. And that’s what I did. And I think it paid off.”
Henson’s role in the film earned her a 2009 Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and she told the White House audience, “I couldn’t get there by complaining. I really want you to understand that. Be courageous enough not to complain.”
The White House event was hosted by Michelle Obama, who gave a speech praising Hidden Figures and its message about defying stereotypes. The movie tells the true story of three black female engineers and mathematicians who worked at NASA in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and helped launch John Glenn into orbit.