Taraji P. Henson’s story about failing college math is very, very relatable

Taraji P. Henson just gave the Academy another reason why she deserves an Oscar for her role in Hidden Figures, as if they need one. In an interview with W Magazine, Henson said she’s that she couldn’t be more different from Katherine Johnson, her character in the film. While Johnson facilitated the United States’ 1969 trip to the moon, Taraji Henson failed a math class in college. Stars: they’re just like us non-STEM loving fans.

Henson hoped to become an electrical engineer in college, but that clearly wasn’t where her talents lay. She told W:

I got to go to pre-calc and it looks like Chinese, so I had two tutors, I think. I still failed. That just was not my calling, so God has an incredible sense of humor because now I have to play this mathematician.

We have all been in that position where the homework we’re given looks like it has to be a foreign language. Luckily, Henson was able to use her acting gifts to seamlessly act as a mathematical genius in the movie. And YES, she is writing all of those complicated equations herself, but there’s a catch. She just memorized the formulas and kept copying them.

Henson’s story is actually a good lesson for all of us in not accepting a rejection as an end-all-be-all of our dreams.

I got rejected at the High School of Performing Arts, so I thought that meant acting wasn't for me. So when it came time to go to college, I don't know why, I chose electrical engineering.

If Henson had quit acting after being rejected that one time, there would be no Cookie Lyon! Sorry, this is getting dark. Luckily for us, she found her way back to the screen. Though she may make it look easy in Empire or movies like Hidden Figures, she still remains challenged in her work.


When asked it was to play Katherine Johnson, Henson told W it was “exhausting.” She explained:

Katherine, [is a] very different woman from a very different time where women had no rights, basically, so it was exhausting in another way, because I am a lot in life. Taraji is very, you know, I'm rambunctious. I have a lot of energy. I'm very animated when I speak, Katherine is not. The women were very different in the '60s, particularly the black women and the clothes were different, the girdles.

The girdles — THE HORROR! The actress told W that she actually wore one, every day, to get in the mood.

Henson. might have had to restrain some of her energy for her role in Hidden Figures, but her acting chops are undoubtedly unleashed to serve us some mathematical-genius realness. Yes, she failed at math in college (who didn’t?), but she certainly excels at acting. In a girdle, no less. We love you, Taraji!

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