“Acting is communication, not only person to person, but SOUL to soul-a physical, emotional, and certainly spiritual expression.”
Around the Way, A Memoir by Taraji P. Henson
She is the HBIC who lights up your screen every Wednesday night. You tune in to see what new fit she’ll be sporting this week or what weapon she’ll use on her sons to give them some-act-right. And quite frankly she has yet to disappoint. You watch her for the laughs and escapades, I watch her as a reminder that it is all possible. It is possible that an around the way girl from Washington DC (and may I proudly add, a fellow Howard Alum) can make it despite hell and high water. She’s a survivor and this is what I have learned from her journey.
1) When to use “THE CARD.” You know… the card. The “I’m a struggling college student and you are my last resort to eat tonight” card. The “I am mother and father in my house and have mouths to feed so are you going to show mercy” card. Or the “I am a minority in a majority world that isn’t knocking down my door to hand out opportunities with a silver spoon” card. Yup, that one. Despite the negative connotation that comes with using this card, it is a tool and you better use it when needed. It declares I will work to earn my keeps, making you look good and benefitting me in the end until I can stand on my own two feet. This card does not damn those eating beluga caviar and foie gras, while praising those who have ramen noodles and water. Just like any other tool, this card is pulled when you are desperately seeking leveled ground in a drowning world. As Taraji puts it, her true Oscar-worthy moments were times when she had to deliver results for the sake of her and her son. She learned to use that card well.
I, too, am a proud card-caring member. Truth be told, I’ve learned to flex this card in dire times as well. In spite of working tirelessly to create an answer where there simply are none, I’ve learned “we’re all just trying to get through this thing called life” (the artist formerly known as PRINCE). This card tells the gut-wrentching truth. It gives the black and white version of a paisley techno colored picture. This card subjects the strongest person to vulnerability and the truth of a situation. The consequences of pulling this card may result in humiliation, ego busting or coming face-to-face with your failures. It shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks if we receive the help we need… right? Wrong! The reality is we do care what people think and deep down we’ve been reduced to our worst fears. We believe it’s less likely that the person we’re giving this card to has never experienced this before, but chances are they have. Henson is a great example of someone who used “THE CARD” to tackle life as she saw it and used it as an opportunity to build regardless of someone else’s perspective. She got what she needed and has since used it as a humbling mechanism. Not bad for an around the way girl from Washington D.C.
2) Let that favorite bag go if you aren’t going to wear it. Taraji does a great job of detailing the complicated relationship she had with her first love. The longevity of their on-again-off-again relationship can be blamed on being young, dumb and out of control (Page 89). Come on, admit it. We’ve all been there. I must confess these chapters had me all in my feelings, listening to Drake and eating which ever dessert was in sight. Partly because although I am over the idea of rekindling a flame that fiercely burned for him, the vivid memories of pain are still ever-present even in my forgiveness. It also brought up memories of what it felt like to be the gem in someone else’s eye. However, later on I found out I wasn’t the only person gleaming in his vision. In Taraji’s case, the end of her relationship concluded with the birth of her son. In my case, the end of my relationship concluded with the lost of something else.
He said, “You’re like an old favorite bag. When I don’t want to use it anymore, I put it away on a shelf.” (Page 97) Taraji is not one to be benched. Anyone willing to bench their love for you is not worth the commitment. Call me crazy, but I believe finding an honest, pure and healthy love is out there for those desired hearts. Will it be easy? Heck no! Is it worth it? Yes. Similar to Henson, I plan on becoming someone’s Mrs one day, and I won’t be waiting for someone to unbench me after they realize my worth. Someone’s Sun Yue is another person’s Kobe Bryant. Simply put, one person’s bench hogger is another person’s starting ball player.
3) We deserve equal pay for equal work. The White man. The White woman. The Black man. The Black woman. This power structure has been in existence since Columbus supposedly discovered America. Although some systematic constructs have been arguably dismantled, it shouldn’t be a surprise we are currently facing pay disparities and role inequities in Hollywood… right? (Sips tea and smacks lips) Taraji hints at this while discussing Viola Davis’ iconic 2015 Emmy Award Speech. Davis paid homage to the influx of black women bringing record shattering viewers to Hollywood’s dinner table weekly, yet are not compensated to the extent of their peers. What will it take for a girl to get her 40 coins and a dog?
This chapter hit so close to home for me. Recently, I have been on a social media war path creating and posting my own memes about pay demands for the independent artist. Before I can get to the level of a Taraji, I must acknowledge the problems in my own back yard. I’ve witnessed many artists get finessed out of money for paid gigs and work completed. And before someone gets their wig in a bunch, I am not talking about a favor to a friend or contributing to a family function. I am talking about the “ooo can you sing at my event” or “you’re funny can you host this party for me” or the “you’re an actor can you perform at my function” type gigs. When I hear these petitions, sometimes I can muster up a pleasant smile and ask them to email me an invoice. However, other times I want to bust out into T.I. “If it ain’t about the money, ain’t no use in you ringin’ my line, stop wastin’ my time.” Just put some respek on my profession is all I’m asking. When you go to the doctor, the physician gets paid. When you go to a football game, the quarterback ain’t missing any meals. And when you get a consultation from a lawyer, they will get their money upfront for just setting up a meeting. So with all due respect, please pay the damn artist their worth.
All and all, the memoir was an easy read and quite riveting. From the opening about Taraji’s kidnapping to details about her relationship with Idris Elba. If I had to change one thing it would be the closing chapters. I feel the ending was rushed and came too soon. As I lingered on Henson’s final words about happiness, I have to admit I felt robbed. Maybe I wanted to know if she saw herself on Broadway or on day-time television or possibly starring in her own Apple Music podcast. Whatever the next chapter holds, she is a dynamic talent and will grab the world by her finger tips. To Taraji, just know inquiring minds are dying to know and fans are anxious to support.
I leave you with this “LET HER B” Moment:
Once you start living in your skin, OWN it