Denzel Washington is the star of a host of Hollywood hit movies, but who were his parents?
Denzel Washington is the son of Lennis Washington and Denzel H. Washington, Sr. His mother owned a beauty shop while his father worked as a minister.
Read more about Denzel Washington and his parents below.
Lennis and Denzel H. Washington
Denzel Washington grew up in New York, in a street that bordered both Westchester and the Bronx. He describes the area in which he grew up as lower-middle class.
“For my father and other folks of his generation, I guess that was their dream fulfilled; to get a house with a piece of grass and a car on the driveway.”
He is one of three children.
Washington’s mother, Lennis Washington, ran a beauty parlor. He describes her as “Aggressive and talkative,” and believes he has inherited some of these traits.
His father, Denzel H. Washington, Sr, was a minister in the Pentecostal Church, a branch of Christianity. “My father was a powerful, big guy, but really a gentle man.”
With his father a man of the church, Washington too was religious. “I was never asked to go here and preach, I was told,” he laughs.
“We went to church every week – my parents made me go. It wasn’t fun.”
The career paths of his parents certainly had an impact on the young Washington. “I grew up working in New York City barbershops and in church, which is where you find the best storytellers,” he explains.
His father was not formally educated, though was encouraging of his children’s education and was keen for them to pursue successful careers, with his mother setting a positive example of this. “She was a go-getter and wanted more for us. My parents were inspirations by example,” he told the Guardian.
When Washington was a teenager, his parents divorced and his relationship with his father became more distant. “I was only around my father up until that time,” he says.
Though he accepts that the separation of his parents likely did impact him, he believes it was “Nothing special,” and says his childhood was still “Normal.”
As a teenager, he began spending more time in the streets and was “Getting into all sorts of trouble.” Some of his friends got into trouble with the law, but Washington’s mother recognized what was happening and took steps to avoid him reaching him the same fate as his peers.
She enrolled her son in a private school and outside of term time, made sure that he attended a camp. “She taught us right from wrong,” he says of his mother.
“My mother never gave up on me.”
As an adult, his mother’s intervention again encouraged Washington to readdress his lifestyle. My mother said to me when I was 59, ‘Denzel, you do a lot of good. You have to do good the right way and you know what I’m talking about.’”
Following his mother’s comments, he took the decision to stop drinking alcohol. “I don’t drink anymore, I don’t do any of those things,” he says.
In 1977, Washington met fellow actor Pauletta and the two began a relationship. They married in 1983 and have four children together named John David, Katia, and twins Olivia and Malcolm.
As a father himself, Washington instilled moral values in his children. “A child doesn’t know right from wrong, so moral instruction is important.”
All four of the Washington offspring have followed in their parents’ footsteps with careers in entertainment. John David and Olivia are both actors, while Katia and Malcolm have both worked in behind the scenes film roles.
In his parenting style, Washington says that he and his wife drew on the wisdom of their parents. “We try to instill the positive influences we got from our parents: in our case, church, school, humility, volunteering, the importance of helping others.”