The Truth About Taraji P. Henson's Relationship With Her Son

Actress and American Music Awards host Taraji P. Henson has been in the entertainment industry for a long time, with iconic works such as "Empire" and "Hidden Figures" under her belt. However, she hasn't let the expectations or criticisms that come with the job dim her light (via IMDb). The "Empire" star is one of the most personable actors around and has used her platform countless times to get real with fans while also putting important issues on the map. Henson's social media is a blend of DIY beauty tutorials aimed at making women of color feel included, call-to-actions on self-care and mental health, and proud mama posts about her son, aspiring model Marcell Johnson. In fact, her Instagram bio sums up her character perfectly: She's a "single mother doing the damn thing!"

Henson and her son have a strong bond, which the cameras pick up on whenever Johnson accompanies her on the red carpet (via Hollywood Life). Naturally, Henson is protective of him. In an interview with People, Henson opened up about the anxieties of being a mother to a Black son because of racism."[Marcell] has a really good heart. It's just hard to know that the world can pick him out and turn him into a monster at any given moment. That's what I fear, that's something that I carry — I think every Black mother does." she explained. She added that instances of police brutality increase her fears tenfold (via Guardian).

Despite these worries, the proud mom always celebrates Johnson's growth and success.

Taraji P. Henson and her son Marcell Johnson experienced deep tragedy

Taraji P. Henson and her son have been through the unspeakable together, which makes their drive today even more admirable. Sadly, Marcell Johnson's father was killed when Marcell was just 9 years old (via Heavy). "My son's father was suddenly taken — murdered," Henson shared on "Peace of Mind," noting that she originally told Johnson that his dad died in an accident. "I didn't know how to tell a 9-year-old," she explained.

Henson's own father died two years later. In an interview with Extra, Henson got real about her depression and the importance of having a support system for both her and Johnson. "It's tough when you are in a dark place. Thank God I had really incredible people around me ... since I've seen a therapist, it helps me tremendously," she explained.

She also mentioned that therapy helped her and her son process what happened in their own time. "That was very traumatic for us, and when it was time to start looking for someone that we felt safe talking to, it was like searching for a unicorn, a purple one, so I felt compelled to jump into action," she added. Today, there can be a stigma around going to therapy, so it's inspiring that Henson — who regularly advocates for mental health — has been so open about seeking help.

Johnson is following in his mom's footsteps, while making a name for himself

Taraji P. Henson regularly shouts out Marcell Johnson's growing modeling career on her Instagram page. After Johnson's New York Fashion Week runway debut with brand Edwing D'Angelo, Henson posted the caption "PROUD MOMMY MOMENT!!!!" She also used the hashtag "blackmodel," which just shows her joy at Johnson bringing diversity to the modeling world, an industry which is notorious for hiring white models (via Mic).

In addition to modeling, it looks like Johnson has also caught the acting bug like his mom. He's made multiple appearances on "Empire," and has nabbed smaller roles in the thriller "Needlestick," along with the TV series "Detroiters" (via IMDb). As Johnson's modeling career and acting career continues to go, we have no doubt that Henson is going to be his biggest cheerleader and advocate. With her positive and supportive nature in his corner, there's no telling how far he'll go!

Her son has been her strength

In a September 2015 interview with Glamour, Taraji P. Henson confided that her son, Marcell Johnson, was a major source of strength for her even before he was born. She got pregnant while in college, and worked hard to stay on top of her classes. Per The Celebritist, the "Hidden Figures" star went from juggling two jobs as a cruise ship waitress and secretary at the Pentagon to pay for her tuition at HBCU Howard University, to balancing her theatre classes on top of her pregnancy.

Henson told Glamour that she was determined to pursue her dream of becoming an actress while also providing a good life for her child, and ignored all of the naysayers who doubted her. She recounted a conversation with her father after she made the move out to Los Angeles. While there were people who questioned her move, her father reminded her that she was doing it for her and Johnson. "That's your baby," Henson shared were her father's words of advice, "That's your blessing. He's going to be your strength."

The "Proud Mary" actress has come a long way from leaving everything she's ever known to having a net worth between $16 million to $25 million.

She raised him to respect women

Taraji P. Henson is a feminist activist who firmly believes that women's rights should be everyone's fight. Per New York Post, she's never shied away from the label and infuses it into the characters she plays. In 2017, she attended Marie Claire's Power Trip summit, where she discussed the importance of women supporting each other and men becoming allies for gender equality. "We need each other, and we need men to understand our plight," Henson declared. "We need men to be feminists."

She's held these values long before the fame and instilled them into her son. Henson told Glamour that motherhood is her number one priority and that when it comes to dating, she is careful about who she brings home. She makes it a point to model the behavior she'd want to see from him. "I'm raising my son, and he's gonna respect women, and that starts with me," she shared.