In one of those weirdly synchronous moments I had just caught up to the episode of "Another Round with Heben and Tracy" where Luvvie Ajayi was interviewed and had picked up her book when I saw that the DC library was going to release a batch of free tickets to her chat with Taraji P. Henson about Henson's new memoir. Well, I clicked, I succeeded and suddenly had another entry on my Saturday calendar.
The event ended up moving locations, literally on the day of, so that goodness for event apps that update automatically. It also started, ahem, quite a bit later than planned which was certainly not the worst thing, but Saturday was windy and a bit chilly, and while I had dressed for the weather, I had dressed for a short wait outside, and well, they didn't even let the people who had ponied up for VIP tickets in until 45 minutes after the official start time. (It was harder to complain when one had free tickets, but I am not at my best when cold and hungry. As it turned out I would have had plenty of time to get food before they let us in, I just didn't have any way to know that.)
But they did let us in, and I managed to grab a seat. The DJ was playing good music, and Henson and Ajayi came out to cheers. Ajayi asked Henson about her career, and her decision to write a book about it. Henson said she had started writing a memoir before "Empire" and had to reflect once "Empire" and Cookie became a thing, because she understood the spotlight would be bigger and said her makeup artist told her people needed her story. And that surrounding herself with folks who wouldn't let her forget who she really was had helped. She also said in the early days, while they were still filming "Empire" but before it had aired that Jussie Smollet and Bryshere Y. Gray would go with her to Target and pretend they were her security team, and she would ask them who would be their security once people saw the show.
There was a moment where Henson suddenly looked out at the audience and said, "Is that Miss Debbie Allen trying to sneak in there?" Apparently it was. (I was pretty close to the front, but on the other side, thank goodness for people with better angles and social media, so now I know for sure I was also in the same room, breathing the same air as Debbie Allen. It's cool.) Henson said Allen had been an inspiration to her, and she had gone to Howard, figuring if that's where Allen went, that's where she would go. Ajayi took a moment before continuing on with questions.
Henson said that she had found people assumed if she was a certain way in chats with creative teams, that they got stuck in their head and couldn't imagine her as something else, even though she's been studying acting for a while, had done Shakespeare in the Park and such. And now with "Empire" and Cookie, she's worked to be very strategic to take hiatus projects that are different to keep reminding people of her range.
Henson also said that being young, and in your twenties, was about trying and failing sometimes. Ajayi asked her what she thought her biggest mistake was. Henson said really, she tried not to focus or believe in mistakes, since that meant trying to attain perfection, instead of letting yourself be flawed.