We love Taraji P. Henson, but how much do we really know about the Oscar nominated actress? Here are 10 facts about the Empire star you might have overlooked.

9. She is related to Matthew Henson, one of the men who discovered the geographic North Pole.

8. Her parents broke up when she was two years old. In an interview with the Washington Post, she said her father was always there for her. He lost his job as a metal fabricator and ended up living out of his van. “If he had 50 cents,” she said, “he would give me a quarter.”

“I was never ashamed; he was never ashamed,” Henson recalled. “He was always there. He would come pick me up in the same van he was living in and we’d go for a ride.”

7. Taraji studied engineering and science at the University of District Columbia and North Carolina A&T, before switching her major and getting a degree in theater arts.

6. She got her first part on a television guest role playing a 16-year-old on an episode of “The Parent ‘Hood” when she was 26.

5. She has one son, Marcel, who was born in 1995. Her son’s father was murdered in 1997.

4. Her college nickname was Cookie, just like her character from Empire.

3. She fights for animal rights. “I don’t think a living being should suffer for the sake of fashion, period. End of story… You don’t have to kill an animal just because you want to be hot and fly. And I really stand by that,” she said about wearing clothes made from animals.

2. Taraji begged her drama teacher in school to be in “Dreamgirls.” Her role? To carry a rack of clothes from one end of the stage to the other.

“Honest to goodness, she made a whole play going across the stage,” Mike Malone said, her drama teacher at Howard University. “She dropped the clothes, ran into someone, etc. You couldn’t pay attention to anyone else except for Taraji. And it was really funny.”

1. Taraji showcased her vocal ability in the movie “Hustle & Flow,” but she also held a note on the “Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars” album, a lullaby album for children, in 2006.

Get caught up before the finale with the Empire Season 2 Binge-a-thon Saturday May 14 at 9am on TV One!

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