She’s on TV, she does movies, she sings — and she makes a dish that Mary J. Blige demands whenever she’s in town! Washington, D.C., native Taraji P. Henson is tough Cookie on “Empire” and no slouch in real life, either! Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the 45-year-old bombshell who has propelled FOX’s splashy hip-hop drama to soapy success!
1. The “P” in her name stands for Penda. It means “love” in Swahili.
2. She studied acting at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
3. Taraji’s first love, and the father of her son Marcel, 21, was murdered in 2003.
4. She worked mornings at the Pentagon and evenings as a singing waitress on a dinner cruise to help pay for school.
5. On TV, smart-mouthed diva Cookie gets lots of nookie, but Taraji said men don’t approach her in real life.
6. “My dream role would be to portray Diana Ross,” she said.
7. She sang on the group Three 6 Mafia’s 2006 Oscar-winning track, “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp,” from the film “Hustle & Flow.”
8. She was nominated for an Oscar as Brad Pitt’s adoptive mom in 2008’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”
9. She loves to cook and said, “My signature dish is chili. I make two types: red chili and a white-bean chicken chili.”
10. After a hospitalization for exhaustion in June, she’s learned to relax: “When I have days off, I just don’t do anything.”