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This Christmas movie goers will have a chance to see vintage Black girl magic in action as Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae tell the stories of NASA pioneers Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson in the film Hidden Figures. But there’s something equally magical about seeing these women on the cover of Essence, both together and individually, for the magazine’s February 2017 issue.

While we’ve seen Henson and Monae on the mag before, this issue marks Spencer’s first time as an Essence cover girl and we couldn’t think of a more befitting time. (You know for a movie where she isn’t playing a nurse or a maid.) The evolution of all three women’s careers in Hollywood mimics that of the women they play on screen in the sense that all were told they could only be one thing and none of them took that word for face value.

“When I was growing up, people told me out of their mouths math and science are for boys. I was told that over and over,” Henson told writer Karen Good Marable in the cover story. “Like, no one showed me how to fall in love with numbers. If I had a teacher like Mrs. Johnson, who knows, I might be on the moon.”

Now, it’s not just teachers people are looking to for encouragement and inspiration, it’s their peers. Henson has become the resident Black girl cheerleader for the example of uplifting support she’s set when it comes to her fellow Black actresses. And it’s that type of spirit, that helps us all get ahead. As Monae said of the women of Hidden Figures: “I think they would not have achieved the level of success that they did had they not had one another.” We agree.

Check out each star’s Essence cover below and pick up your own copy on newsstands January 13. Hidden Figures hits theaters in select markets on December 25 and nationally on January 6.

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