Denzel Washington may be known as one of America’s most beloved actors, but there’s a side of Washington many haven’t seen.
Denzel Washington believes in God. And if you meet him in person, you’ll quickly learn that he’s unashamed to tell you so.
But Washington doesn’t claim to be a perfect Christian. In fact, he admits that many of his life’s deepest struggles are what caused him to turn to Christ.
Denzel Washington was born on December 28, 1954, in Mount Vernon, New York. Denzel’s father, Reverend Denzel Hayes Washington, Sr., was a Pentecostal minister and his mother, Lennis “Lynne” Washington, was a beautician and beauty parlor owner.
Raised in a loving Christian home, Denzel Washington says growing up in the fear of the Lord is something that he values deeply in life.
Denzel shared, “My father, my earthly father, Denzel Washington Sr. was a pastor for the Church of God in Christ for 60 years. I know he’s smiling in heaven, seeing his son doing the best I can do today, by the grace of God.”
Today, he’s one of America’s most beloved actors. But Washington’s life wasn’t always easy. Denzel severely struggled through school as he received poor grades and his future looked pretty bleak.
To make matters worse, shortly after turning 14, his parents divorced and young Denzel went on to live with his mother. Heartbroken and spiraling out of control, Denzel started down a dangerous and rebellious path. The young Washington was constantly getting into fights and staying out on the streets.
Desperate to save her son, Denzel’s mother sent him to a private preparatory school, Oakland Military Academy in New York — a decision that God used to transform his life forever.
“That decision changed my life,” Washington later said, “because I wouldn’t have survived in the direction I was going. The guys I was hanging out with at the time, my running buddies, have now done maybe 40 years combined in the penitentiary. They were nice guys, but the streets got them.”
Unlike many other actors of our day, Denzel didn’t grow up aspiring to be anything grande. In fact, Denzel’s challenging childhood led him to believe that he would never truly amount to anything. Until one day, a woman from church approached him and gave him a word of encouragement.
Denzel recalled back on the day that changed his life forever,”Now mind you I was 20 years old, with a 1.7-grade point average and had flunked out of school. She said, ‘You are going to preach,’” shared Washington. “In this 40-year journey, I guess she was right. Through my work I have spoken to millions of people.”
With a new-found hope, Denzel enrolled into Fordham University. There, he played basketball as a guard and studied medicine. However, he soon realized that he lacked passion to be a doctor.
Rather than waste time and money, Denzel decided to took a semester off school and accepted a position as the creative arts director at an overnight summer camp, Camp Sloane YMCA in Lakeville, Connecticut. As fate would have it, Denzel’s time there would later prove to change the trajectory of his life forever.
While working at the summer camp, Denzel directed various activities– which included organizing skits for the children. And as it turned out, young Washington had a natural knack for acting.
In his book, Denzel wrote “The counselors there put on a talent show for the kids. So I put together these little poems and rhymes and skits for the kids in my cabin, and we stood up on stage and did our bit. After the show this guy named Miles Joyce came up to me and said, ‘Man, you ever thought about being an actor?
Denzel returned to Fordham with a new-found interest in acting and in 1977, Washington earned his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Denzel went on to receive a scholarship to attend graduate school at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. But it didn’t take long for Denzel get into acting. After just one year of grad school, Washington returned to New York City to take a stab at his professional acting career.
Just four years after Denzel began acting, Washington made his first Hollywood appearance in the film Carbon Copy (1981). Playing the role of Roger Porter, a long-lost, illegitimate son of a white corporate executive. The film was a breakout success and is still considered an American classic to this day.