You wouldn't know it from her most noteworthy roles, such as the buttoned-up, warm-hearted caretaker in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" or the fragile and worn-looking prostitute in "Hustle & Flow," but Taraji P. Henson is a self-proclaimed "fashion and shoe" girl, and she's got the contents of her newly built closet to prove it.
Dressed in a pair of body-hugging G Star jeans and an olive-green T-shirt with platinum-colored epaulets from Bebe, Henson bounds into her closet with a wide smile, loads of energy and what seems endless excitement to show off her most coveted sartorial possessions. She can pinpoint the first time she wore most of them, how she felt and how many heads she turned. But no matter how many Gucci boxes and Vuitton bags are perched around her, she is completely passionate about each and every piece.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, July 27, 2010 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Fashion timeline: In Sunday's Image section, a timeline of the history of wardrobes said that Princess Diana donated 79 dresses for a charity sale at Christie's in 1979. The year was 1997.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, August 01, 2010 Home Edition Image Part P Page 2 Features Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Fashion timeline: A July 25 timeline of the history of wardrobes said that Princess Diana donated 79 dresses for a charity sale at Christie's in 1979. She donated the dresses in 1997.
Henson, 39, recently moved from a Spanish bungalow in Glendale to a newly built Moroccan-style home in the Hollywood Hills. Her closet space increased along with the overall square footage. "I now have space. I can see everything," she says. "I don't even know how I was fitting everything in my other house. Closet space was at the top of my list when looking for a new house, along with the view." She got what she was looking for: Besides unobstructed views from west to east, Henson gained a large closet in her master suite as well as one in her "glam room," where she gets dolled up for appearances and houses her longer red-carpet gowns and fancier attire.
But it's her master closet that revs her up for getting creative with her clothes and letting her exuberant personality loose. "Even before I became an actress, I used to wake up and dress according to characters," she says. "It was all a theme to me. One day I'd have long hair down to here with an exotic look, and the next day I may be ghetto Betty with big bamboo earrings, Converse and little shorts. I think that speaks to me as the kind of artist and actress I am. I'm very expressive, and this helps me in developing characters. I ask myself, 'What does she look like? What would she wear?' "
The flow of her closet is a work in progress. Not everything is perfectly uniform, not all the hangers match and smell of cedar, nor is there a Jetsons-style catalog system in place. But this seems to suit the actress who references her closet like a giant (and high-end) dress-up chest.
From stacks of skinny jeans to shoes in the original boxes (categorized by color and style), Henson's 7-by-12-foot walk-in closet, complete with a built-in vanity, is a girly girl's sanctuary. Among other things, it's stocked with sexy skirts, tokens from abroad (such as China, where she spent three months filming "The Karate Kid") and numerous pairs of shoes in styles suitable for walking the red carpet or walking her dog, a silky terrier named Willie.
"These are my walk-the-dog shoes," she says, pulling out a pair of caramel-colored, fleece-lined boots festooned with two tiers of fringe that shimmy like a Tina Turner mini-dress. They are just one of many pairs of furry and cold-weather boots. "Tom Hanks gave me these," she says of some white, cable-knit boots with pom-pom tassels (the actress just wrapped the film "Larry Crowne," starring and directed by Hanks). "And I wear these [bubblegum-pink Timberland boots] if I go up to Big Bear. I have a ski suit with pink stitching, and my goggles are pink. See, everything is about fashion for me!"
Her collection of flat, furry boots is but a minor blip in the well-stocked closet. It's the heels, nay stilettos, tall supermodel-meets-superhero shoes, that not only stand out like shiny little trophies, but that Henson is obviously most jazzed about. Shoeboxes stacked according to style, color and print are marked with photographs of the box's contents. YSL, Guiseppe Zanotti, Louboutin and plenty of her favorite Gucci shoes fill closet compartments to heights that would make any girl first drool, then seethe with envy.
"Oh! I have to show you the shoes that go with the cage dress!" She is referring to a pair of black Gucci heels that she wore -- with a Mandalay cocktail dress with a cage-like corset around the waist -- when hosting this year's BET Awards after-party with P. Diddy. "Let me tell you something about these shoes," she says. "They are showstoppers." She is equally if not more excited to pull down a box containing shoes she calls "mad hunt" shoes, meaning she saw, she found, she bought, she conquered. Henson has more than a few pairs of mad hunt shoes.