Taraji P. Henson says she was ‘gutted’ to take home just $40K for ‘Benjamin Button’
The 'Empire' star says that she was paid less than her white-costars in the 2008 movie that netted her an Oscar nod
On a recent podcast, Taraji P. Henson spoke up about what pay equity means as a Black woman in Hollywood.
While a guest on the Ladies First with Laura Brown podcast, the star opened up about the unfair salary she earned after scoring a spot in 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button despite her white costars making big bucks, as reported by The Jasmine Brand.
“I felt like what I was asking, at that time of my career, was fair to the ticket sales that I would contribute to this big film. [The studio] wouldn’t do it… and then I was gutted.”
The actress says after paying off her team she only took home $40K for the box office hit that grossed over $335M. Meanwhile, her costars, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were paid millions.
Henson did earn a 2009 Oscar nomination for her role as Queenie but says she had to fight against stereotypes in order to eventually receive the kind of money she deserved.
“I understand why we took that on, Black women being the bottom of the totem pole, never being seen. I understand, but it’s when others go, ‘Yes, strong Black woman!’ and then it dismisses us … Then if my child or somebody I know is gunned down in the streets, I’m supposed to be strong through that? I’m not allowed to be angry?” said Henson. “ I’m not allowed to be pissed off? I can’t say [anything back] because you’ve taken everything from me. I’m not allowed to feel that? I’m just supposed to be strong?”
The wage gap has long plagued Black women in the workplace and Hollywood is no exception. Black women earn 65 cents to the white man’s dollar, per CNBC. Back in 2018, actress Jessica Chastain (The Help) who is white, teamed up with former co-star Octavia Spencer to ensure she was paid fairly on a project both of them were starring in.
“I love that woman because she’s walking the walk and she’s actually talking the talk,” said the Academy Award winner, per People. “She said, ‘Octavia we’re gonna get you paid on this film. You and I are gonna be tied together. We’re gonna be favored nations, and we’re gonna make the same thing.’ Fast forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for.”
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