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Taraji P. Henson Recalls Meeting Diahann Carroll: "She Blew Me Away"

Taraji P. Henson Recalls Meeting Diahann Carroll: “She Blew Me Away”

The ‘Empire’ star pays tribute to the 84-year-old actress, who died Oct.  4, broke ground in the 1960s (with ‘Julia’) and traded insults with Joan  Collins in the 1980s (on ‘Dynasty‘): “She was a huge influence.”

She was a huge influence. I was a young girl from the hood, and when you live in the hood it’s hard to dream. We didn’t see many African American women on TV. I remember looking up to Brooke Shields and pretending that my hair was straight. And then here was this woman on Dynasty who was just so beautiful and classy and talented and strong and fierce. It was great to see that as a young girl.

And then when I started studying acting — I went to a historically black university — we learned about people of color that were doing these amazing things, and of course her name came up and that blew me away. I just knew her from Dynasty, and when I found out about Julia — that she had her own TV show in the 1960s — I just marveled at what she must have gone through to make that happen.

Years later, I got to meet her at an Essence magazine luncheon and I followed her around like a puppy, just thanking her.

A version of this story appears in the Oct. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.