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Avellon Williams

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO – On April 24, 1964, Djimon Hounsou was born in Cotenou, Benin, a country in West Africa,he was the youngest of five children. 

Djimon Hounsou /Image, TC/

Considering West African standards, his family was relatively prosperous thanks to his father’s occupation as a cook.

“We were not a wealthy African family. In those days, everything was very basic. If you knew the way I lived then, and the way I’m living now… it’s day and night,” Hounsou said in an interview. 

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Hounsou grew up speaking French as well as several dialects of Goun, a Beninois language. He became interested in a career in show business after watching packed movie showings in his home village that lacked television.

“Once you got in, you couldn’t move. Every space was crowded with people. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an entertainer.” 

When Hounsou was thirteen years old, he was sent to Lyons, France, to live with his older brother and study to be a doctor. His family was disappointed to learn he was a lackadaisical student without an interest in medicine. “I wanted a different life from the one my family planned,” Hounsou said. 

As a twenty-year-old, Hounsou abandoned his schooling and drifted to Paris. After being thrown out of the house by his brother. In the absence of a place to live or working papers that allowed him to obtain a job, Hounsou slept on benches and bathed in fountains.

“It was not a pretty sight going through people’s garbage at night to find a piece of bread to eat. Keeping a low profile was my way of avoiding trouble with the police,” Hounsou said.

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Hounsou’s impressive, six feet, and two-inch physique were noticed by Thierry Mugler, a French fashion designer, and photographer who spotted him by chance and turned him into a model. Hounsou followed up on the idea, “I never pictured myself that good-looking [but] I had nothing to lose,” he said in an interview. After becoming a well-established model in Paris around 1987, he made a living for himself. 

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As a result of his picture being circulated to modeling agencies, Hounsou soon appeared on fashion show runways and in an advertisement campaign for designer Thierry Mugler.

“It’s a very surreal world, modeling, but it kept me off the streets, literally,” he said. 

After a long career as a model, Hounsou became a mainstay for the popular Calvin Klein brand. A few years later, in 1990, he decided to move to the United States to attempt a career in acting.

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First Roles in Acting- In his transition from model to actor, Hounsou faced several challenges, particularly because he did not know much English at the time of his immigration. His main source of learning the language was by watching movies and documentaries in English. With the help of a prominent musician, he made yet another breakthrough. His first exposure to the acting world was through music videos, notably Madonna’s “Express Yourself”. The doors to his acting career were opened by this.

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Unlike in France, Hounsou found that his race mattered much more to whites and other black people in the United States. “It never occurred to me that there was a way to behave ‘black’ tobe black … That was one of my first encounters with, I guess, the American lifestyle. It was difficult for me. Growing up in France, I was just a human being. I came here and they tell you, “Hey, he behaves like a white boy.’ I didn’t know there was a way to be black. So that was shocking,” Hounsou said.

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Major Roles in the Film Industry- He has had a significant impact on the film industry through his acting career. It is no secret that he has played countless roles in award-winning movies, and has been nominated for several awards as well, including the Golden Globe Award for the impactful role of Joseph Cinqué in Steven Spielberg’s film, Amistad.

Cinque, in Hounsou’s eyes, was an ordinary man. “He never intended to lead this whole thing,” he said. His only motivation was to free himself. “The fact that I was called a slave doesn’t sit well with me, since in Cinque’s mind, slavery isn’t an option. According to Hounsou, he never chose to do anything but be a human being.”

Among his many other Oscar nominations, his performances in America, Gladiator, and Blood Diamond are perhaps the most well-known.  As a result of these films, he landed several major roles in popular movies, such as Guardians of the Galaxy, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Captain Marvel, and Aquaman. Apart from the blockbuster movies he has appeared in recently, Djimon Hounsou has also appeared in Shazam and Kingsmen: The Great Game.

Personal Life- A traditional African ceremony of commitment was performed by Djimon Hounsou with Kimora Lee Simmons in 2008. May 2009 saw the birth of their first child. 

During the summer of 2012, Djimon and Kimora announced they would be separating from each other. Working out at the gym, riding horses, and playing polo are some of his favorite activities.

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There is no doubt that Djimon Hounsou is one of the most recognized actors out there. Throughout his youth, he struggled and persevered in acting and this is what makes him so unique. Despite all the challenges he has faced, Djimon is one of Hollywood’s most respected actors, and through it all, he remains humble and never forgets where he comes from- Benin.

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Avellon Williams

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