In her new memoir, actress Taraji P. Henson describes her ascent to fame, being a black woman in Hollywood, and her love affair with vintage Chanel.

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at Windsor Arms Hotel on September 10, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.
Credit: J. Countess/Getty

You know what keeps me looking young? I laugh a lot. I chill a lot. I'm goofy and silly and I like to have myself some fun. I love feeling the sun on my face and kisses on my cheek. I love good wine and great food, especially if it's prepared by my own hand. I love talking to my son and folding him into my embrace. I love listening to music—jazz especially, but classic R&B and hip hop too, and, of course, go-go music by some of my favorite DC bands. I love my Jeep Cherokee, the only car I own, because who needs to spend a bunch of money on fancy cars when Uber can get you and your wine from point A to point B without a DWI? Also, I love shopping, especially for shoes and vintage Chanel—purses, belts, jewelry, jackets, suits, pretty much anything I can get my hands on. I'm a certified Coco Chanel huntswoman; if it exists, I will track it down—in the stores, online, across regions and continents. I have drawers stacked with black boxes that hold treasures I purchased here in America, and white boxes that hold precious goods I scored in Paris. My collection is all at once terrible (because I don't need all these things) and epic (because I need all these things), and I'm sure it's approaching Elizabeth Taylor levels of ridiculousness, but I love each and every piece so hard, it practically hurts.

Taraji P. Henson Book - Embed
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My attraction to the brand extends far beyond a desire to own expensive goods; it's so much deeper than that. Coco and I go together. She came from nothing—a little orphan girl abandoned at a convent by her father and taught by nuns how to sew, not as a passion but utility, much like how my mother sewed our clothes when I was little. Still, even in that dark place, Coco saw light. She was a dreamer who tossed a middle finger to boundaries—a rebel. I can identify with that. Recently I had the honor of strolling through her apartment and studio in Paris, and felt such a rush breathing in her spirit—the very essence of Coco Chanel. It was such a magical place, filled at every turn with her mystical aesthetic. I lounged on her lush 1920s custom-made suede couch and ran my fingers over the pillows that inspired the quilt pattern in her signature bags, and admired the entryway mirror, marveling at its silhouette, which formed the shape of the Chanel No. 5 bottle. Running up the magnificent spiral mirrored staircase made me giggle as I played hide-and-seek with my reflection in the prisms; that she'd designed the staircase to cloak herself while she observed the genuine reactions of clients and fashion-show audiences was not lost on me. She had a thirst for authenticity, and, along with the luxuriousness of her space, it oozed in every crevice of her home. The black lacquered tables, the chandelier with the trademark interlocking C's, the Chinese screens with the camellia fleur, the lions and books covered in rich red, all of it made my heart beat fast as I considered the thought she put into every detail of not just the Chanel brand but her own personal being—how all that she knew and loved had value because it meant something specifically to her and no one else.

Reprinted from Around the Way Girl. Copyright © 2015 by Taraji P. Henson. Published by 37 Ink, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, LLC.

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