Taraji P. Henson Jokes About Technicolor Dildo Collection
Honored at Women in Film's Crystal + Lucy Awards, the actress gets real about the gender pay gap, working hard to make her dream come true in Hollywood and the myth of "insta fame."
Taraji P. Henson wants to know if Hollywood needs her to have a penis, because she'd be up for getting one attached.
The Empire leading lady — honored Wednesday night at Women in Film's 2016 Crystal + Lucy Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel — picked up her Lucy Award for Excellence in Television and delivered a high-energy speech that covered a wide-range of subjects. She touched on Viola Davis' best dramatic actress Emmy win (in Henson's category), diva reputations, the gender pay gap and, yes, male members. Specifically, multi-colored plastic ones.
"If I do a job just as well as a man, people tune in every week, they see me, they root for me just like they root for him, why should my pay be less than his?" asked Henson, accepting one of the night's top honors from Fox Television Group co-chair and CEO Dana Walden. "Is it because he has a penis? Because we live in a world now where I can have one attached. Just let me know if that’s what I need! Because I have them at home in all different colors."
She never mentioned her Empire co-star Terrence Howard by name, but she didn't need to. The dildo joke landed well and laughter filled the ballroom, which also hosted honorees Denise Di Novi, Lauren Shuler Donner, Lucy Fisher, Lianne Halfon, Lynda Obst, Jane Rosenthal, Natalie Dormer, Lesli Linka Glatter and Hylda Queally. Actresses Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale and Claire Danes were also on hand to present at the event sponsored by Max Mara and BMW.
Henson, dressed in a long-sleeve, off-the-shoulder embellished dress from Marc Jacobs' fall 2016 collection, didn't just jump into the genitals talk. The Oscar-nominated actress also provided details about growing up in a world filled with critics quick to squash the big dreams of others. Henson moved to L.A. at the age of 26 as a young mother with $700 in her pocket, and many people told her that she was "crazy" and that she wouldn't make it.
"If you allow people to project their fears on to you, you won't live," she said. "I will be 46 this year, and I am just touching the surface."
Her recent career spike thanks to her role as Cookie Lyon on Empire should really be circled back to Henson's unique talent, said Walden before presenting the trophy. The top TV executive said Henson cares as much about the work as she does her fellow castmembers, dubbing her "a true leader" and someone who defines herself as a mother first.
"She’s such a gifted actress that she has managed to make a character who is deeply flawed so incredibly beloved. I mean, the lady has served hard time, she’s had people killed, she has double crossed most of her family members, and yet in the hands of Taraji, we all root for her, which is exactly why #CookieRules trends every show night," Walden gushed.
Strong, sure, but also selfless in dishing out advice to the younger generation. Henson said she has started encouraging children not to follow in her career path, but rather shoot for a top executive power position like Walden's.
"I love talking with kids, they’re like, 'We want to do what you’re doing!' That’s the weak position. You want to be her," she proclaimed, pointing at Walden. "You want to be the head of a studio greenlighting projects. That’s my message to kids today. They think so little because of Instagram, you know, everybody wants instant fame. Me getting here? This is 20 years of hard work. Of proving that my voice mattered, right? Did I always get paid what I should have? No. But that was my struggle. My struggle was bigger than that. Think of the big picture and stick to it. I have a voice."
She knows how to use it, too, profanities included.
Henson closed out her speech, explaining why she hugged Davis last year when the How to Get Away With Murder star bested her category and took home the Emmy.
"People were, like, kind of baffled that I got up and hugged her and I was like, 'Isn’t that what you do when you see your friend win?' " she asked. "Like, if she did good work, God dammit, give her the f—ing award. Give her the f—ing check! Goodnight, thank you.”
INFLUENTIAL: Honoree Taraji P. Henson and Fox Television Group co-chair and CEO Dana Walden (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Women In Film)