Taraji P Henson said she wants to “break the glass ceiling” for women over 40 in Hollywood as she was honoured with a star on the Walk Of Fame.
The Oscar-nominated American actress, 48, is known for starring in films including The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Date Night as well as TV drama Empire.
On Monday she became star number 2,655 after being inducted into the Walk Of Fame.
While accepting the honour Henson, who is currently starring in rom-com What Men Want, urged her fellow actresses not to “drop the torch” and said she is motivated by smoothing a path for young women entering the entertainment industry.
She said: “I want to break through glass ceilings when they tell women over 40, ‘you’re done, we’re sending you out to pasture, we’re going to hire someone young and sexy’.
“But then when I look up and see those men still performing and doing these kick-ass roles at 60, I’m like, ‘wait a minute, I still look good’.
“I’m not ready to go out to the pasture, so here I am. So I fight for roles that will break through glass ceilings so that when these young women coming behind me, they won’t have the same narrative that we have. We can’t drop the torch now, ladies out there, anyone in the industry.
“But we also need our men, that’s why I love men and protect them, because we need each other. We can’t bash each other, we have to reach across the table and help each other.
“I am for justice for all, I am for all people.”
Washington DC-born Henson’s mother and 94-year-old grandmother were in the audience. The actress reflected on her early career in Hollywood and said she arrived in Los Angeles in the early 1990s with 700 dollars in her pocket.
Fighting back tears, she told her grandmother: “I hope you are so proud because this is your legacy.”
Henson, a mother of one who is engaged to former American footballer Kelvin Hayden, added: “Everything I do is for the positive, forward movement of humanity. That’s how powerful art is, I don’t take anything for granted, every role I take on is just as special as the last one.
“I know if I put my all into it and this role transforms me, then the audience will be transformed.”
Singer Mary J Blige, a close friend of Henson’s, spoke at the ceremony at 6212 Hollywood Boulevard.
She said: “She has been there for me, she has brought me through so many things and brought sunshine to my darkest days. Made me laugh till I cried on days when I just wanted to cry. A true angel, what an amazing woman.
“You are the definition of a phenomenal woman.”
Film director John Singleton, who worked with Henson on 2001 film Baby Boy, said audiences “see themselves” in the actress.
For each star installed on the Walk Of Fame, the sponsor of the nominee must pay 40,000 dollars (£31,000) to the Hollywood Historic Trust.
The money goes towards the installation of the monument as well as the maintenance of the Walk Of Fame.