Denzel Washington: Snapshot

Denzel Washington
Date of Birth
December 28, 1954
Birth Place
Mount Vernon, N.Y.
For an actor who seemed so right playing strong, principled men in Malcolm X and Crimson Tide, it was ironic that Denzel Washington won his Best Actor Oscar for playing a corrupt cop in 2001's Training Day.

Washington, the son of a minister, graduated with a degree in journalism from Fordham University, but pursued his interest in acting, earning his first Oscar nod in 1988 for the political drama Cry Freedom, and landing a Best Supporting Actor statue for Glory in 1990. Over the years, PEOPLE's 1996 Sexiest Man Alive has amassed an impressive body of work including collaborations with director Spike Lee, his own directorial efforts in Antwone Fisher and The Great Debaters, and Ridley Scott's American Gangster.

Denzel Washington: Five Fun Facts

  1. Oprah Winfrey asked Denzel Washington's wife, Pauletta Pearson, if she feels jealous of his devoted female fan: "No, because, you know why? He's coming home."
  2. At 11, Denzel Washington earned $11 a day sweeping hair at a barbershop. His first job prepared him for his career in acting: "The best liars are in the barbershop."
  3. Julia Roberts presented Denzel Washington with his Best Actor Oscar for Training Day and has been good friends with the actor since they costarred in Pelican Brief. "Referring to Denzel Washington as simply sexy is like saying Ernest Hemingway was a good fisherman," Roberts told PEOPLE.
  4. In 2006, Denzel Washington's son, John David, signed with the St. Louis Rams NFL team as a free agent running back and was added to their practice squad.
  5. In the summer of 1995, Denzel Washington and his wife renewed their vows while on a trip to Africa in front of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. During this trip, he also makes another promise: $1 million to former South African president Nelson Mandela's Children's Fund.

Denzel Washington: Biography


Denzel Washington

It Takes a Village

At 6, Denzel Washington joins the local Boys & Girls Club of America in Mount Vernon, N.Y., a middle-class, primarily African-American suburb of New York City. He later credits the group for keeping him from the dangers of drugs, crime and violence.


Denzel Washington

Broken Family Ties

Washington's beautician mother and Pentecostal preacher father divorce when he's 14. He loses contact with his father until his 20s, and the teenager starts getting into fights and hanging out on the streets. His mother packs him off to boarding school, where Washington shapes up before starting at Fordham University in the fall of 1973. As a camp counselor at a Boys Club camp in 1975, Washington appears in a variety show and falls in love with acting. He later lands roles in Fordham campus productions of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and Othello.


Denzel Washington


Starting Out

After graduating from Fordham University with a B.A. in Journalism, Washington enrolls in San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre and spends the summer filming his first onscreen role in the TV movie Wilma. He meets future wife Pauletta Pearson, an actress/singer/pianist, on set. "I thought he was cute, but I fell in love with his spirit," she tells Oprah Winfrey. "And then I thought, 'Hmm, not a bad package.'"

Read More on Denzel Washington's Life

Photo Credits

Top Left: Lorenzo Agius/GETTY

BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): COURTESY BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB; GLOBE; Ron Galella/WireImage

Edited by Julia Wang

Denzel Washington

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