What can you learn from Denzel Washington? A lot, it turns out. Denzel is a perfect example of how to achieve success in both your personal and professional life. He is one of the most successful actors in Hollywood; acting in over 60 films, winning three Golden Globes, two Academy Awards, and a Tony. But his journey has not been easy. He has worked hard for everything he has achieved, and he continues to work hard to this day. So, considering Denzel’s list of impressive achievements, we will be diving into how this success superstar came to be in this Denzel Washington Success Story special.
In this article, we will take a closer look at Denzel Washington’s rise to success and peek behind what we see on the big screen to learn what we can apply to our own lives. So, if you believe success leaves clues, and you want to learn a few success insights from Denzel’s inspiring story, let’s dive right in.
THE DENZEL WASHINGTON SUCCESS STORY
Youth and Challenges
Denzel Washington was born in Mount Vernon, New York City, in 1953, on December 28th. The street he grew up on was on the edge of Westchester and the Bronx, a lower-class neighborhood that surrounded him with crime, drugs, and violence.
When he was 14 years old, he dealt with the struggle of seeing his parents going through a painful divorce, leaving his mother with him and his two siblings. He had moments of involvement with gangs and getting into fights, but his mother pushed him to stay on the right path.
Despite the challenges he faced, Denzel persevered. His mother ensured a better future for her son by sending him to the military academy in New Windsor. This pivoted the young man from a life of aimlessness to one of curiosity, where he would seek to find answers to find out where he fit into the world.
The Search for Self Identity
Washington pursued several different paths before he found his calling as an actor. In high school, he joined the football team and was the quarterback. He continued to play football in college, and also joined the basketball and baseball teams as well.
Denzel used sports as a way to find community and learn the power of achievement, which had begun in his childhood days as a regular member of the Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx. However, he discovered that a professional path in sports was not for him.
His interests in biology and chemistry didn’t pan out after taking a challenging course called “Chordate Morphogenesis”, a daunting topic that didn’t attract his interest.
Political science was his next attempt, as he thought it would allow him to make a difference in the world as a lawyer. This got the young man interested in hearing the stories of others, leading him into the field of journalism.
At this point, Washington realized he was working his way into the field of art.
During a summer position as a camp counselor at the YMCA, he had his first experience performing in front of an audience when he was asked to put on a show for the kids.
His natural charisma and stage presence was undeniable. A fellow camp counselor recommended that he pursue acting, and Denzel took his first steps into the world of performing arts.
From Amateur to Professional
When Washington returned to college after the summer, he immediately transferred to Fordham University’s theater department to study acting. His first role was in the play “Othello”, and he would go on to have successful performances in many more theatrical productions.
When preparing for the role of Othello in the play, one of his most influential teachers gave him a piece of advice that he carried on for the rest of his life: “Less acting is always more”.
After a rich and successful college career in theater, Washington made the transition to film with his first movie role in “Wilma” in 1977 and “Carbon Copy” in 1981.
On the set of Wilma, he met his present wife, Pauletta Pearson, who became a major beacon of support and stability during his early Hollywood years.
He then received a major break on television when he was cast as Dr. Phillip Chandler on NBC’s hospital series”St. Elsewhere”.
Despite being on the show for 6 seasons, the executive producer, Bruce Paltrow, graciously allowed him to leave the production three times to film the movies “A Soldier’s Story”, “Power”, and “Cry Freedom”.
Washington states that if he wasn’t allowed this creative freedom, he wouldn’t have become the actor he is today. Paltrow later said of Washington: “He was the kind of actor who came along once in a generation”.
A Star is Born
After his time on “St. Elsewhere”, there was no question that Denzel Washington was a star. He had leading roles in many movies, including “Malcolm X”, “Philidelphia”, “The Pelican Brief”, “The Bone Collector”, and “The Hurricane”.
In the year 2000, Denzel Washington won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor due to his exceptional performance in the film “The Hurricane”. The last African American actor who won a Golden Globe was Sidney Poitier in 1963, making him the first black actor in 37 years to receive the honor.
This was a huge stepping stone in Washington’s career, as he was now being seen as a serious contender for Hollywood’s top awards.
And in 2002, his dreams came true when he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in “Training Day”. He has since been nominated for three more Academy Awards and has won a total of two Golden Globes.
While Denzel Washington’s story is one of rags-to-riches, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. He has given back to many different charities over the years, including the Boys and Girls Club of America, The Make-A-Wish Foundation, and The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, to name only a few.
He has also donated back to the college that fostered his love of acting, Fordham University. He has donated $2 million dollars to the theater program as well as $250,000 to create a scholarship program for young actors attending the school.
In 1991, the university gifted him an honorary doctorate degree. Morehouse College similarly provided him with an honorary Doctorate of Humanities in 2007, and the University of Pennsylvania provided him with an honorary Doctorate of Arts in 2011.
Lessons Learned From The Denzel Washington Success Story
The most important cornerstone of this Denzel Washington success story is his transformation from a life of aimlessness to one of focus and determination. He didn’t let his living conditions, poor grades, or challenge with finding a discipline stop him from staying curious, open, and active in his pursuit of a better life.
It was only when he allowed himself to be vulnerable and truly dedicate himself to his passion that he found the success he always dreamed of.
And it is this same level of focus, discipline, and heart that we must all bring to our own lives if we want to achieve our dreams. Just remember: what Denzel Washington can do, you can do too. You just have to set goals for yourself and then be willing to put in the work.