Taraji P. Henson does not mince words when describing the Washington, D.C., in which she grew up. “Honey, I’m from the hood,” she remarked during a visit to her hometown in December. “Crack. Murders. Whole neighborhoods going under in a flash.” Consider it a testament to Henson’s most dominant traits—her ferocity, her resolute optimism, her unshakable philosophy that life is something to be ­conquered—that she hardly seemed to find it remarkable to be recalling her hard knock roots from a decidedly more rarefied perch in the nation’s capital. Inside a suite at the Four Seasons, she was curled up on a couch in a supple white robe, treating herself to a manicure, sipping a Veuve Clicquot mimosa, two days away from screening her latest movie, Hidden Figures, for Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House. “This is the life I always saw for myself,” she went on. “You have to see yourself inside the dream, you know? Why you gonna do something to fail? No, baby, that ain’t me! I always wanted to be one of the big dogs.”

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