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Did You Know: Taraji P. Henson Was A Musical Theatre Major

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Yes, you read that correctly. Taraji P. Henson, who portrays the ambitious, no-nonsense Cookie Lyon on Fox’s hit show Empire, was a Musical Theatre Major at Howard University.

Henson joins the list of notable Howard Alum in the same program such as Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Chadwick Boseman, Isaiah Washington and Anthony Anderson (whom she attended Howard with at the same time!)

Henson always knew she wanted to go into acting she just had to find her moment. After getting rejected from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington DC, she thought it meant her calling wasn’t acting and upon graduation enrolled at North Carolina A&T to major in Electrical Engineering. However, after failing Pre-Calc she realized that acting was where she needed tTaraji-P-Henson-TBT_Rolling-Out-Joi-Pearson-3o be, she told Vanity Fair;

Well, I was always a ham. I didn’t really get serious about [acting] until college. I auditioned for a performing arts high school, didn’t get accepted, and I thought that meant I couldn’t act. So I never acted again until I failed Pre-Calc in college. I decided I was going to try Electrical Engineering. That sounded good, it just sounded good! So I failed, and thank God I did because it forced me to study what I really wanted to, and that was acting.

She transferred to Howard University to major in Musical Theatre and we’re so grateful we didn’t lose her to the sciences. During her college days she was student by day, cruise singer by night.

Yes. I put myself through college. I worked at the Pentagon during the early part of the day, the middle part of the day I went to school full-time, and at night I was a singing-dancing waitress on this small dinner cruise called the Spirit of Washington.

Taraji and Mom

A young Taraji P. Henson and her mother, Bernice Gordon.

Henson has been one of my favorite actresses for a long time (and not just because she also hails from the DMV, like myself). Her hustle and dedication to the business is just amazing, and I just love watching her get all the attention and love that she deserves. While she is most known for her film and TV roles such as Baby Boy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which earned her an Oscar nod), Hustle & Flow, and now the cult hit Empire–Henson is no stranger to the stage; after all she majored in Theatre. In 2013, she was apart of the August Wilson‘s American Century Cycle readings at The Greene Space in NYC. Making her Wilson debut as Molly Cunningham in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone directed by Phylicia Rashad.

She was last seen in Pasadena Playhouse’s Above The Fold last winter, to which she received great reviews.

From the Pasadena Playhouse website:

Jane, an African-American newspaper reporter from New York, flies to a Southern university where three white fraternity members have been accused of raping a young African-American woman. Taking place amidst the shift from print to digital journalism, ABOVE THE FOLD asks tough questions about the exploitation of tragedy, the cost of success and the dangers that come when ambition collides with truth.

Did I also mention she sings and the woman has got some serious pipes on her. You saw Hustle & Flow, right? That was Henson providing vocals, which lead to her performing the Oscar winning song “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp.” live at the Oscars. One of the greatest performances in Oscar history, in my opinion. Personally, I think Henson should just appease me by making her way over to the Great White Way in a revival of something, anything that allows her to show-off those pipes.

Check out Henson’s singing skills below and sound off in the comments.

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Get Your War Clothes On: Billy Porter Energizes in GLAAD Acceptance Speech

Jerrica White

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billy porter

So, I have a question.

In the same line of thought as “innocent until proven guilty,” do we grant the assumption of positive intent in our expectations of our brothers and sister in regards to woke-ness, à la woke until proven problematic?

Now don’t get me wrong, there was no doubt in my heart that Tony and Grammy Award-winner, Billy Porter, was woke. Nope, none. What I wasn’t ready for, was the way he fixed his fingers to pen one of the greatest acceptance speeches of my lifetime, and how he turned the Gospel classic “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” into a battle song.

The 28th Annual GLAAD Media Awards honored Billy Porter with the Vito Russo Award, presented to an openly LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality and acceptance.

He started by affirming the room full of members of marginalized communities, with my personal daily mantra: “You are enough. we are enough.”

Since the beginning of time artists are the folks who engage critically and encourage those who think they are powerless to question the status quo.

Brothers and sisters across the room leaned in.

The days of shut up and sing are over.

Alliteration informed and illustrated as Porter preached on remaining “vigilantly visual” as we tell our stories. Acknowledging the reality of our times, he spoke on Number 45:

Where they slipped up this time is in that declaration of war. It’s not only against Black and Brown people and Queer people anymore, it’s against ALL of us. And as a result, the good news is: white folk, and straight folk, and all those fierce women folk, are mad now. And NOW maybe something might get done!

Get. Your. War. Clothes. On.

From slavery to emancipation, to the 13th Amendment, to Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights Movement. From Stonewall to AIDS, to marriage equality— we gotta remember the shoulders who we stand on—the ones who fought and died for those freedoms that we hold so dear. Let’s use these historical strides we’ve made as a nation to empower us as warriors on this battlefield of equality.

Amen.

Until we can figure out how to love one another unconditionally, no one wins. Freedom. Equality. Justice. Have always come at a cost and evidently the always will.

If that’s not the truth.

Stay strong. Stay vigilante. Stay visible. Stay hopeful. Stay focused. Be brave. Be fierce.

Resist.

RESIST.

RESIST.

RESIST.

For a full list of this year’s winners, honorees, and guests, visit GLAAD.

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Jazmine Sullivan: The Next Singer-Songwriter To Write A Broadway Musical?

Jerrica White

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jazmine sullivan

We recently caught up with Jazmine Sullivan at The HeLa Project, a multimedia exhibition inspired by the HBO film, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Like the rest of us, Jazmine is in awe of the under-told story of Henrietta Lacks and her instrumental role in modern medicine. We further asked about why she got involved with the project and she said: “Anyway I can give light to an extraordinary woman like that, I’m there.”

Some of the integral women in bringing this story to light have their roots in Broadway: Tony Award-winning producer Oprah Winfrey, who not only stars in the film, but also credited as executive producer, and Tony Award winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, who portrays the title character.

We wouldn’t be Broadway Black if we didn’t keep it real.

Let’s be honest, we can’t get enough of 11-year-old Jazmine singing “Home” like she wrote the piece, so we got to asking, and it turns out Jazmine wouldn’t mind putting her pen to paper to create a musical for the Broadway stage.

She said performing on Broadway isn’t in the plans for the near future but, “You never know! I love writing and creating characters!”

God!? Oprah!?!? Stephen Byrd & Alia Jones-Harvey?!?! Who’s going to snatch this up?

Until then, it sounds like we have some new music to expect. What kind of musical would you like to see from Ms. Sullivan? Sound off below in the comments!

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Twitter: @BroadwayBlack

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