We know Taraji P. Henson’s time hosting Saturday Night Live was going to be a big deal almost immediately after the announcement was made. One of the most dynamic black women in television was coming to one of the least diverse shows in the business.
As a matter of fact, we even found out that only 2 percent of SNL hosts had ever been black women in the show’s entire 40-year span. We were dying to know if SNL or the Empire star would address that. It turns out she did… but not in the way we expected.
After a strong opening sketch about Hilary Clinton filming her video to announce her plans to run for president, Henson took to the stage with all the sass and confidence you’d expect from her Empire character, Cookie. Almost immediately, Henson boldly announced that after 20 years in the business, being nabbed for Saturday Night Live confirmed for her that she had finally made it: “White people finally know who I am.”
From there, Henson launched into a song, aptly titled “I Made It,” in which she celebrated having finally become a household name. With the help of a choir, Henson sang of all the things she could have been doing, like working a pole, being a music video ho or handing out samples at the grocery store. Members of the cast even hopped in with notes of what they’d be doing if they hadn’t “made it” on SNL. It was Henson’s list of would-be careers, though, that truly highlighted what kind of value “the business” puts on black women. We love that she did it with wit and sarcasm. It fit the show’s vibe perfectly but, inevitably, sent her to rise above whatever SNL powers-that-be that keep trying to stifle the show’s diversity.
Furthermore, it reminded us just what a powerful singer Henson truly is. On a night marked also with the debut of Mumford and Sons’ “new” sound (if you’d hit a concert in the past, you’d know they’ve rocked electric instruments for years) and two songs from their decidedly louder upcoming album, Henson even managed to steal the music portion of the show. Mumford et al. brought down the house. Don’t get us wrong. But it’s hard to compete with the talent behind Cookie.