HH: You recently celebrated your 50th birthday and looked fantastic on your vacay! Are there any hair and beauty tips you swear by to keep yourself looking so good?
TARAJI: I guess my beauty secrets to staying healthy and young are to pay attention to what you’re feeding your body. Exercise, take care of your mental health, learn how to say “No” and take time for yourself. I drink lots of water—learned that tidbit from Gabrielle Union. She’s the gallon-a-day water girl, and she turned me onto that, and it does wonders for your skin. And learn to laugh. Learn to laugh at yourself.
HH: You seem so confident about your natural tresses on social media. How would you describe your relationship with your hair over the years?
TARAJI: I had fallen in love with my natural hair over the years, and it started with the big chop because, for the first time in my life, my hair was all the same curl pattern. It wasn’t stressed out from heat, from blow-drying, from pressing. I was natural for years. I went natural after Baby Boy. I had to relax my hair for 26 years. Then when I got out to LA and I did Baby Boy, the hairstylist at the movie encouraged me to grow my relaxer out, and so I did.
But for years, there was such a stigma around Black women’s natural hair. We had to be straightened. We had to look as European as possible with our hair. I had to do that if I wanted to work. So I pressed my hair. And I was tired of my hair being stressed out like that. So I did the big chop once they perfected the lace front wigs. I didn’t have to do weave installs and leave some of my hair out—you know I had damage from that. When I did the big chop, all of my hair grew back healthy. I had all of my edges, all of the back, and nothing was stressed. And I learned to love it at every length. And then I fell in love with red. That was sort of an accident, but now I’m in love with it. I love that my hair is natural because now I get to play with color, and I love color.
HH: You’re always donning a stunning hairstyle. Has there ever been a look you’ve tried that in hindsight you wouldn’t do again?
TARAJI: I ended up with a mullet one time . . .I was doing two movies, so I got stuck in a mullet. The mullet was in Date Night, and there was this other independent film I did called Peep World. I got stuck in that weave for both of those projects, and I rocked it, and I just went with it. But I won’t do it again unless it’s for another role.
HH: How do you maintain your natural hair while you’re working?
TARAJI: I wear lace front wigs when I’m working, and I keep my hair braided down underneath the wig. So it’s literally in a protective hair care style. It’s cornrowed down to my scalp, sort of like a wig cap style, so the lace fronts can lay very naturally and lay flat to my hair. I love it when I’m working because my hair is always tucked away under a lace front.
HH: What’s next for Taraji?
TARAJI: More directing, more producing. It’s very interesting discovering some new, young talent. I’m just ready to pass the torch, like [the late] John Singleton did to me. [He] discovered me and cast me in Baby Boy because he was looking for new talent. It’s time for a new wave of new talent. And there are two television situations that I’m working on. Of course, you’ve already heard about the “Cookie” spinoff and there’s another project that hasn’t been announced yet. And more for me in the beauty world with hair, because I’m into it, I’m so into hair. I love hair.
I missed cosmetology school by one year because I didn’t get accepted to the school of fine arts. And I knew my next passion was hair and nails and all things beauty. But I missed cosmetology school by one year, and I think that was God. So here I am, life, full circle, with my TPH by Taraji Hair Care line. I love it. Thank you, Hype Hair. I love you!
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.