Denzel Washington and wife Pauletta's 39 years of marriage and their secret to long-lasting romance

10 March 2022, 16:21

Denzel Washington first met wife Pauletta in 1977
Denzel Washington first met wife Pauletta in 1977. Picture: Alamy

By Tom Eames

Denzel Washington and his wife Pauletta have been married for almost 40 years. But what is the secret behind their long-lasting love story?

Denzel Washington and wife Pauletta (née Pearson), have been married for nearly four decades, which is sadly quite a rarity with Hollywood couples.

The two actors have had their ups and downs over the years, but stayed together through thick and thin. They're also parents to four children, and are usually seen together looking loved up at all the big Hollywood events.

  1. How did Denzel Washington and Pauletta meet?

    Denzel Washington and Pauletta Washington in 1986
    Denzel Washington and Pauletta Washington in 1986. Picture: Getty

    Denzel and Pauletta Washington first met on the set of the the 1977 TV movie Wilma, which was actually Denzel's first-ever on-screen acting role.

    However, it wasn’t until the pair were working together again a year later that they found romance.

    “The first movie I ever did — TV movie — was about Wilma Rudolph and I played Wilma Rudolph’s boyfriend,” Denzel Washington said on Live with Kelly and Ryan in 2018.

    “Pauletta was one of the track stars,” he said. “I met her then, but I didn’t meet her then. I saw her then.

    Denzel Washington Talks About How He Met His Wife

    Months later, Denzel first properly met Pauletta. She later told Oprah Winfrey in 1996: “A mutual friend of ours, who was also in the film, had given a party. And Denzel and his friends came at the very end of the party.

    “We spoke again. We were reintroduced. The next night, I attended a play. I got there late, so I snuck in and just sat down. I didn’t look at who was around me, then at intermission, the lights came up, and we were sitting next to each other.

    Remembering the moment slightly differently, Denzel joked that Pauletta had actually planned to meet him at the play: “I had talked at that party, I talked about going to see a play. I went to see the play and at intermission the lights came up and she was sitting [there]. She said she just happened to go see the play, but… I’m getting in trouble as I speak!”

  2. When did they get engaged and married?

    Denzel and Pauletta
    Denzel and Pauletta. Picture: Alamy

    Speaking to Access Hollywood in 2013, Pauletta revealed that Denzel actually proposed to her three times.

    “Twice!” Denzel said, but Pauletta had the final word.

    “It was three times. I know with age sometimes things [go], the mind,” she joked. “I turned you down twice and the third time we did it.”

    Denzel laughed: “You heard it here first: She turned me down, she said no. And since it was three times, that means she turned me down twice.”

    The couple tied the knot in 1983.

  3. How many children do they have?

    Denzel and Pauletta with son John David
    Denzel and Pauletta with son John David. Picture: Getty

    In 1984, Denzel and Pauletta had their first child, son John David.

    Daughter Katia followed in 1987 and, in 1991, they had twins Olivia and Malcolm.

    When speaking about his kids, Denzel praised his wife. Speaking to The Guardian in 2010, he said: “My children are good people. They are not perfect, but they are generous and humble and kind. My wife did that.”

    Denzel and Pauletta with kids Malcolm and Katia in 2019
    Denzel and Pauletta with kids Malcolm and Katia in 2019. Picture: Getty
    Denzel and Pauletta and daughter Olivia in 2009
    Denzel and Pauletta and daughter Olivia in 2009. Picture: Getty

    John David is also an actor, most famous for his roles in Tenet and BlacKkKlansman.

    Katia graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts in 2010, and Malcolm graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in film studies, while Olivia played a role in Lee Daniels's film The Butler.

  4. Have they ever almost split up?

    Denzel and Pauletta in 2021
    Denzel and Pauletta in 2021. Picture: Getty

    Denzel and Pauletta Washington renewed their vows in 2002 in South Africa, with Desmond Tutu officiating.

    Rumours of infidelity and divorce followed the couple in 2013. While Denzel denied all cheating accusations, he did admit that marriage can be difficult.

    Speaking during a fan Ask Me Anything Reddit chat, he wrote: “You have to work at it. Not give up on each other. It’s a commitment. It’s not all the honeymoon, it doesn’t last forever, so you work at it. And hopefully you’re good friends first, that might help!”.

    Pauletta spoke about marriage difficulties to Ebony magazine, saying: “I live with this man. I see the down part. I see the sad part. I see every part. He has and knows he has that stability in me as his wife."

    Denzel added that they “go through ups and downs, like any couple” before stating that “we live in a time — and it’s not for me to judge anyone — when people give up too easy."

  5. Denzel Washington is in awe of his wife

    How Denzel Washington's Wife Knew They Were Meant to Be | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN

    Denzel Washington added that “there is no secret to the perfect marriage,” but that there are various moments and elements of their relationship that has contributed to having a long and happy life together.

    “A spiritual foundation helps everything – marriage, work, peace of mind," he told People in 2018.

    He said: "You can buy a house, but that doesn’t make it a home – and not to say a man can’t make a home a home, but my wife has made our house a home, and raised these beautiful kids and protected them and sacrificed for them, she did the heavy-lifting."