If someone told you that Denzel Washington doesn’t have that “it” factor anymore, that he’s not as fine as he used to be, or that he’s no longer relevant, that person told you wrong. At 57, Denzel is still gorgeous, still insightful, with some advice for us all. Denzel sat down for an interview for the October issue of GQ and was surprisingly candid and honest about his life experiences, from his relationship with his parents, his past beef with director Quentin Tarantino to his thoughts on Whitney Houston’s passing. Check out highlights from the interview below.
On His First Job in the Barbershop
I was a paperboy. I was maybe 9. I faded on that quick. There’s no money in it. I was 11 or so when I started in the barbershop. That was great theater. Professional liars in a barbershop. There were a lot of father figures in there. I was there with grown men. You know, saying grown-men things. Listening to men talk and lie. I learned to hustle. If you came in, I looked at you like money. Okay, you’ve got good shoes? You might have a few dollars. I had a little side hustle where you brought your clothes on Saturday; I’d take them to the cleaners and deliver them at the end of the day. Fifty cents here, a dollar there. I was 13 and buying my own clothes. Working in that barbershop, learning how to tell stories…I learned how to act. [laughs]I miss it. I really dug that independence. My oldest daughter—I see her digging her independence. She doesn’t like me talking about it, but she’s working with Tarantino.
On Whitney Houston
Whitney was my girl, and she had done so well in recovery. And that is the toughest part about addiction.
GQ: Were you friends still?
Not “talk every month” friends, but I talked to her from time to time. And that was a monster drug that got ahold of her, it was a mean one. You can’t go back to that one. Nobody beats that. I look at people—and I don’t think I’m speaking out of line—Sam Jackson, I’ve known for thirty-some-odd years, he was down at the bottom. And he came all the way back. And when he cleaned up, he never looked back. But he can’t have that beer, because it might lead to the tough thing.
Whitney was such a sweet, sweet girl and really just a humble girl. You know, they made her this thing. She had a voice, obviously, but they packaged her into this whole whatever, but she was really just this humble, sweet girl. Me and Lenny [Kravitz], we were talking about her yesterday, and it’s more of an example to me or the rest of us to keep it together. I was listening to her song “I Look to You.” It’s prophetic. Maybe I’m speaking out of line. Maybe she thought she could have one. And then the next thing you know, her body was betraying her. She didn’t know that her body was aging quickly. She couldn’t take it. Your body can only take so much. Some people survive [Hollywood and fame], and some people don’t.
His Message to African Americans
Take responsibility. One of the things that saddens me the most about my people is fathers that don’t take care of their sons and daughters. And you can’t blame that on The Man or getting frisked. Take responsibility. Look in the mirror and say, “What can I do better?” There is opportunity; you can make it. Whatever it is that you choose, be the best at it. You have an African-American president. You can do it. But take responsibility. Put your slippers way under your bed so when you get up in the morning, you have to get on your knees to find them. And while you’re down there, start your day with prayer. Ask for wisdom. Ask for understanding. I’m not telling you what religion to be, but work on your spirit. You know, mind, body, and spirit. Imagine—work the brain muscle. Keep the body in tune—it’s your temple. All things in moderation. Continue to search. That’s the best part of life for me—continue to try to be the best man.
Read the rest of this fascinating interview at GQ.com.
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