The Color Purple’s Taraji P. Henson breaks down in tears over Hollywood pay gap: ‘Enough is enough’
Taraji P.Henson, who is soon to be seen as Shug Avery in The Color Purple movie musical, has said she’s considered quitting acting altogether because of unfair pay in Hollywood.
The Golden-Globe-Award-winning actor has starred in the hit TV shows and films including Empire, Hidden Figures, The Karate Kid reboot and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which she received an Oscar nomination.
Despite her prominence within Hollywood, in an interview to promote The Color Purple on SiriusXM, Henson became emotional while talking about suffering from the pay disparity in the industry – particularly as a Black female star.
Appearing on Gayle King’s SiriusXM radio show, she was asked if she was thinking about leaving the profession altogether.
“I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious about what I do, getting paid a fraction of the cost. I’m tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over. You get tired,” Henson replied.
Although the actor has had success on the big screen, it hasn’t translated into money earned, forcing her to work non-stop to pay her bills and ensure the whole team behind her is also getting paid well.
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“When you hear someone go: ‘Such and such made $10 million’, that didn’t make it to their account,” Henson continued. “Off the top, Uncle Sam is getting 50 per cent. Now have five million. Your team is getting 30 per cent of what you gross, not after what Uncle Sam took.
“Now do the math[s]. I’m only human. Every time I do something and break another glass ceiling, when it’s time to renegotiate, I’m at the bottom again like I never did what I just did. It wears on you.”
At this point Henson broke down as she addressed her The Color Purple co-star Danielle Brooks, who was sitting next to her.
“What does that mean? What is that telling me? If I can’t fight for them coming up behind me then what the f*ck am I doing?” she asked.
Henson went on to explain that she is regularly told by production companies that her stories won’t “translate overseas” but she has become “tired of hearing that” throughout her career.
“I see what you do for another production but when it’s time to go to bat for us, they don’t have enough money. And I’m just supposed to smile and grin and bear it. Enough is enough.
“That’s why I have other [brands], because this industry, if you let it, will steal your soul. I refuse to let that happen.”
Black creatives rallied around Henson online to share their support, with Bring It On star Gabrielle Union, posting: “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…”
Many people took to social media to express their shock at the way Henson and others were being treated.
The Color Purple arrives in cinemas in the US on Christmas Day and in the UK on 26 January.
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