Update: Taraji P. Henson is still rocking the hell out of her summer cut, and revealing why the look is so important to her. Part of the reason why the actress chopped it all off is because she wanted to differentiate herself from her Empire character.
"That's all I get is Cookie," she said during a Television Critics Association panel, about being recognized outside of work. "I say, 'Not now. It's Taraji.'" She continued: "Fans say, 'Cookie, I like your new cut, girl.' Cookie doesn't even wear this hair!"
Well, Taraji, we can tell the difference — and we love it, sis.
This article was originally posted on June 23.
Taraji P. Henson has a collection of wigs that can't be matched. In fact, it's rare to see the Empire star rock the same look in a week... let alone one row on her Instagram page. That's why we were a little bit unsure about her latest style that she 'grammed: a deep auburn curly crop, buzzed super-short in the back. Was her big chop the real deal, or another one of her fabulous pieces? "Absolutely, it's real!" Henson's longtime stylist Tym Wallace exclusively confirms to Refinery29. "No wig at all."
The cut happened last month after the actress wrapped her movie Proud Mary. "She was just like, 'I want to cut my hair,'" explains Wallace. "She already had an undercut, and it was growing in. She was loving how her curls looked, and was like, 'If we're gonna cut it, we're gonna cut it all.' She's like, 'I trust you.'"
And while most people would be hesitant to lose their length, Henson (who's natural) approached the chop like the badass that she is. "She fell in love. She felt so free and liberated," he says. "Two or three days later, we went ahead and colored it." Since she snapped that selfie, Henson's gone even shorter and changed her color, too... but there's no telling when we'll see that. "We'll debut it at the right time," Wallace teases. "That won't be for a while."
Henson's cute crop may even transform into a buzzcut if she leaves matters in Wallace's hands. Going from long natural hair to barely there might seem backwards to some, but it makes perfect sense to team Taraji. She's been natural since filming Baby Boy in 2001. She didn't "big chop" back then — instead, she let her relaxer grow out over time, says Wallace.
Aside from her famous wigs, we've seen Taraji's gorgeous hair in its natural state occasionally... thick, lush, and hanging to her shoulders. However, one too many blow dries made her ends fragile and ultimately fried her texture, Wallace explains. A new cut is helping revive her curl pattern after all the color and heat damage that comes with being in the makeup chair every day.
Aside from reviving her curls, Wallace wanted to give Henson a big chop to inspire her fans. "It's great to see a woman of her stature embrace her hair, and [cut] it so short," he says. "There's a difference between wearing a natural textured wig or weave, and actually wearing your natural hair. She's showing that she's all for the Black girl magic — showing these young Black girls that you are not defined by what society paints as beautiful when it comes to a Black woman and her hair. That was the main force for me."
If you're considering a summer chop, too, Wallace suggests getting it shaped every four to six weeks. And if you have an undercut like Henson's, you may need to touch it up every two weeks. For those still scared to face the scissors, he has these words of encouragement: "It's hair! It will grow back. It's not the end of the world," he says. "Go for it. I tell women this all the time, especially Black women. It will grow so much better and faster when it's in its natural state. And if you don't like the growing-out process, that's what you have wigs for. Invest in a good one."
That's what Henson's doing, at least. "Trust and believe, we will definitely be throwing wigs on with this," he says. "Some looks will require a different feel. But right now, we're gonna rock this out." At least, until her next selfie...
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