There are the Hollywood couples who last for less time than the milk in your fridge, and then, there are Denzel and Pauletta. The twosome has been together since 1977, when they met on the set of their shared movie, Wilma. As Denzel explained to Live! With Kelly and Ryan in 2018, "The first movie I ever did, [a] TV movie, was about Wilma Rudolph, and I played Wilma Rudolph’s boyfriend." He continued, "Pauletta was one of the track stars. I met her then, but I didn’t meet her then. I saw her then."
Several more chance meetings—once at a party and once at a theatre, where they both happened to turn up to the same play—sealed the deal on their romance. Fast forward to 1995, and the couple, who by then shared four kids, were renewing their vows in South Africa.
Denzel gushed about his better half for the couple's 35th wedding anniversary, telling People that he appreciates that Pauletta has brought him "security, food, a beautiful home. The difference between a house and a home, it’s a big difference," he mused. "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." He later reiterated his praise for his spouse, proclaiming to the T.D. Jakes Show, "I married up!"
Read on for 10 fascinating facts about Denzel Washington’s wife.
She’s an actress in her own right.
Sure, she may be Mrs. Washington, but she’s also an accomplished actress in her own right. Known by some as The Parkers’ Terri Angelou and others, Genius’s Rachel Franklin, her IMDB credits are impressive, to say the least. But that’s just scratching the surface. Pauletta also has a storied history as a Broadway entertainer, where she starred in such productions as Jesus Christ Superstar and Shakespeare’s Cabaret.
She studied piano at Julliard.
A one-trick pony? Hardly. Pauletta is also a musician—the classically trained kind. The performer studied piano at Julliard! She began competing in piano competitions as early as age 10, and one of her songs, "It’s In Your Eyes," can be heard on the soundtrack for Denzel’s 1993 film, Philadelphia.
She turned down Denzel's proposal...twice.
While most women would be falling over themselves to accept a proposal from the Equalizer actor, Pauletta made him work for it. She revealed to Access that the Oscar winner popped the question not once, not twice, but three times before she finally accepted. "It was three times," she confirmed, to which Denzel replied, "Why was it twice… Why would I have to ask again?"
Pauletta’s response? "Because I said no. … I turned you down twice and the third time we did it."
She has been married to the actor for nearly four decades.
Once she accepted, the duo first tied the knot way back in 1983. For those doing the math, that means they’ve been together for 39 years. That’s nearly four decades, people!
Their secret? According to the Fences star, a whole lot of hard work. "There is no secret to the perfect marriage," he told The Guardian. "Everybody has their ups and downs; we've had ours. It's hard work, you know. But we made a commitment. A spiritual foundation helps everything—marriage, work, peace of mind."
She’s five years older than Denzel.
At 71 years young, Pauletta is five years her husband’s senior.
She gave birth to twins.
After welcoming son John David in 1984, the couple’s family grew once more in 1986 with the addition of daughter Katia. Six years later, twins Malcolm and Olivia arrived in 1991, when the mother of four was 39.
She’s a philanthropist.
"I have always been interested in helping and using my talents in ways that will serve others," Pauletta told Spelman College, where she serves as a trustee. She’s a founding member of the Brain Trust of Cedars-Sinai, which raises awareness and funds for brain care and research, and she was even recognized with the BET Humanitarian Award in 2005 for her work with the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Gifted Scholars Program, which allows students with an interest in science to work on research projects at the hospital.
She paid for the cab on their very first date.
Denzel told Jimmy Kimmel in 2017 that he ran out of money for cab fare on the couple’s first date…while they were still riding in the cab. "I was gonna splurge and we were gonna take a cab, and the meter’s going, and I’m going, 'Uh oh….how far away does she live?'" he recounted, adding, "She paid."
She’s a glass ceiling breaker.
In 1970, The North Carolina native made history when she became the first Black Miss Carolina beauty pageant contestant to compete. She placed second runner-up in the competition.
She ate diner eggs on her wedding day.
Denzel and Pauletta were so busy greeting their guests at their wedding, they missed out on the grub! "We'd shaken so many hands, taken so many pictures, they ran out of food," Denzel said during his 2017 Jimmy Kimmel interview. Their solution? Diner eggs, naturally!