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Growing up the only child of divorced parents in rough southeast D.C., Taraji P. Henson remembers, “My mother would be sitting at the table crying over a bill, and I’d walk in and be like, ‘Mom, don’t cry, I’m going to be rich one day!’”

“We never lived in the projects, but we were in the ‘hood, lower midle class, living paycheck to paycheck,” says Henson.

As a budding teenager in the mid 1980’s, Henson had a front row seat of what would become known as the crack epidemic.

“I remember watching our 13-inch black and white TV, and the newscasters were talking about crack. I saw the destruction happen firsthand in families, on the streets and in the schools. No hope, no jobs. Despair.”

While many schools saw their afterschool programs cut, the drama club at her school still stayed on. It became her refuge and her passion.

She continues to showcase that passion in the upcoming film that’s getting a lot of buzz, Hidden Figures.

Hidden Figures tells the story of unsung NASA heroes Katherine Johnson (played by Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), black women whose drive and calculations proved crucial to sending astronaut John Glenn into orbit in 1962. The trailer had social media on fire when it dropped last month, but this was the first time that the stars had seen any more footage from the film.

(photo credit: Taraji P. Henson Instagram)

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