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HomeEntertainmentFrom Garbage Man To Hollywood’s Leading Man: Inside Denzel Washington's Inspiring Success...

From Garbage Man To Hollywood’s Leading Man: Inside Denzel Washington’s Inspiring Success Story

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Giving up was never an option for Hollywood legend Denzel Washington, who failed multiple times in his journey before discovering his path to career success.

American actor Denzel Washington is one of the greatest entertainers to walk this earth, leaving his footprints etched deep in the sands of time.

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Yet, his path to success was no easy one, as he struggled with everything that could have pulled him down while growing up. From a humble background to peer pressure and difficulties finding his passion.

Somehow, the icon managed to pull through, thanks to his mom’s resilience and the contributions of a handful of people he met in his path.

Denzel Washington | Image: Pinterest
Image: Pinterest

Today, this iconic figure is an epitome of Hollywood success, having matched the reputation of his greatest mentor, Sidney Poitier, and threading the path no one else dared.

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Denzel Washington’s Childhood

Born to Pentecostal minister Hayes Washington Sr. and his wife Lennis Washington, a beautician, Denzel Washington grew up in a Christian home.

The star, who landed on the planet on December 28, 1954, never had it easy despite having two siblings.

At 14, his parents divorced, forcing the teenager to adapt to a new life with a poor single mom. That seemed to take a negative toll on him, as the actor admittedly found himself going in a direction he never would have survived.

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Saved From The Wrong Crowd

Washington once disclosed details about his rough childhood and how he became entangled with the wrong crowd at some point in his teens. Those steps in the wrong direction threatened to lead him into a future of crime, violence, and drugs.

Thankfully, his mom took action in the nick of time. She withdrew him from the rough neighborhood and shipped him off to a military academy in New Windsor, New York, to learn some discipline.

Denzel Washington in his youth | Image: Pinterest
Image: Pinterest

That single step admittedly saved the 67-year old’s life, as over five decades down the line, he basks in his career success while the guys he rolled with at the time have done “maybe 40 years combined in the penitentiary.” Certainly not the future anyone envisioned for themselves.

Struggling To Find Himself

While the decision Washington’s mom made at the time prevented the streets from getting him like it did his friends, the icon still had a long path ahead of him that only he could forge.

Following his time at the military academy, Washington attended the Mainland Highschool, Daytona Beach, Florida, before enrolling at Fordham University.

But getting into college was only the onset of the most daunting phase in the Grammy winner’s life. Thereafter, Washington, who gained admission as a pre-med, struggled to find the career path he truly craved, his true passion.

He played college basketball as a guard while in college, but his less-than-impressive academic performance made it difficult for him to make his athleticism into a career.

Figuring becoming a doctor did not align with his ambitions, he turned to other paths. First, he tried out political science and failed at it, before embracing pre-law.

It soon dawned on him he was no lawyer material. The realization forced him to consider journalism. At that point, his grade had become so low that the school board “politely advised” him to take some time off.

The “Fences” actor, who was twenty at the time described that moment as his lowest point. But that never stopped him from pushing forward.

Discovering His True Path

Washington took the University’s suggestion and deferred a semester. He spent those free months doing odd jobs, including working as a garbage man, becoming a factory worker, and working in a post office.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis on "Fences" | Image: Pinterest
Image: Pinterest

He soon landed a temporary job as the creative arts director of the overnight summer camp at Camp Sloane YMCA in Connecticut. There he discovered how great he was at acting after participating in a staff talent show.

Equipped with a new passion, he returned to Fordham and enrolled at the Lincoln Center campus to study acting. Years later, he graduated with a BA in Drama and Journalism.

He went on to enroll at the American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco, for his graduate school, kicking off his professional acting career in New York a year later.

Plunged Into Fame

Denzel Washington began his acting career as a stage performer in the mid-seventies before making his screen acting debut in the 1977 film, “Wilma.” Four years later, he landed his first Hollywood role in the comedy-drama, “Comedy.”

He went on to star in a handful of films including the hit TV drama, “St. Elsewhere,” “Cry Freedom,” and “A Soldier’s Story,” before making his big break as Private Silas Trip on the civil war drama, “Glory,” skyrocketing him to stardom.

Denzel Washington on "Glory" | Image: Pinterest
Image: Pinterest

Since breaking big in Hollywood, the sky has been Washington’s limit. He starred in several films and television shows, making his most notable appearances in movies like “The Hurricane,” “The Great Debaters,” “Philadelphia,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Pelican Brief,” “Remember The Titans,” and “Training Day.”

Washington also landed starring roles in “The Equalizer,” “American Gangster,” “Inside Man,” “Fences,” and “Déjà Vu, ” among others. Additionally, he expanded into movie direction in 2002, debuting with the film, “Antwone Fisher.”

Denzel Washington’s Achievements And Awards

Washington’s stint in the movie industry has earned him a series of well-deserved awards and nominations. The 67-year-old, who has been married to his wife Pauletta Pearson since 1983, has two Academy Awards, for supporting actor (“Glory,” 1989), and Best Actor (“Training Day,” 2002).

He also boasts of one Tony Award for best actor, (“Fences,”) two Golden Globes, (“The Hurricane,” and “Glory,”) and one Screen Actors’ Guild Award for his performance in “Fences.”

Denzel Washington poses with his Oscar award | Image: Pinterest
Image: Pinterest

The New York Times ranked this renowned legend as the greatest actor of the 21st century. He has also been dubbed the Martin Luther King of Hollywood thanks to his record-breaking feats throughout his career.

Over the years, Washington’s career has progressed to heights he never would have imagined. His numerous movie roles and creative pursuits behind the scenes as a producer and director have earned Denzel Washington a net worth of $280 million as of December 2021 as per The Things.

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