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Lakeith Stanfield's Tough Childhood Including Food Theft and His Mom's Abusive Boyfriend

Manuela Cardiga
Sep 28, 2020
10:30 A.M.

Today, Lakeith Stanfield may be one of Hollywood's brightest rising stars, but as a child, he often went hungry and had to steal to eat.


FX comedy-drama series "Atlanta" star Lakeith Stanfield may now be one of Hollywood's hottest young rising stars, but as a young boy, he lived in poverty and often went hungry.

Fans of the brilliant and versatile Stanfield, 29, don't realize that as a young boy, his life was a modern version of Dickens' "Oliver Twist," with all the elements of violence, cruelty, and desperation.

 Lakeith Stanfield at the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in January 2019 in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images

Lakeith Stanfield at the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in January 2019 in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images



Life wasn't easy for the young San Bernardino boy. His parents were separated, and neither side provided stability or security for their five children. Stanfield's mother had a violent, abusive boyfriend, who frequently beat the children. Stanfield confessed:

“At the time I didn’t have anything to compare it to. It’s like, 'This is happening right now.' I couldn’t be like, 'This is horrible.'"



Two of his brothers were autistic, so Stanfield was the only one who'd stand up to the man, and he took the brunt of the beatings. After calling 911 several times, and seeing that the authorities did nothing to end the abuse, Stanfield stopped calling.

Stanfield now jokes about “baloney sandwiches with no mayo and no cheese," he is haunted by memories of being hungry, and hungry enough to steal food. He recalled ordering sandwiches at Subway and running out without paying.

The life of petty crime on the streets had no appeal for Stanfield once he discovered acting in high school


All the small troubles Stanfield got involved in had to do with stealing food to eat, and later as he got a little older, with stealing beer from a grocery store. He revealed:

"I found out you can’t really outrun a helicopter, no matter how much you think you can.”



Fortunately, the life of petty crime on the streets had no appeal for Stanfield once he discovered acting in high school. He might not have been a star pupil in any other class, but he was brilliant at Drama.

At 16, he got himself some headshots for $60 and joined a modeling school. He landed an audition for a Destin Daniel Cretton short, "Short Term 12," and was cast as a boy who lives at a group home for troubled youth.


Stanfield's performance as Marcus was riveting and heartbreaking and acclaimed by The Hollywood Reporter as Oscar-worthy. The film premiered at Sundance and won the Jury Award for U.S. Short Filmmaking, and Stanfield was nominated for Best Supporting Male at the Independent Spirit Awards.

But for Stanfield, "Short Term 12" wasn't the door to stardom he'd hoped it would be. Acting job offers didn't roll in, and he ended up working first at a marijuana growery, then as an AT&T door-to-door salesman, until his juvie record surfaced and he was fired.


However, he had made one contact at the Spirit Awards that would propel him on to the next step -- he had met director Ava DuVernay, who cast him in her 2014 film, "Selma" as murdered veteran and civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson

After "Selma," it was impossible for Hollywood to ignore Stanfield, and in 2015, he played Snoop Dogg in the biopic "Straight Outta Compton" alongside O'Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, and Jason Mitchell.


He landed a role in Donald Glover's ongoing FX drama-comedy series "Atlanta," in 2016 and the film and television credits keep piling up. Stanfield is currently filming "The Harder They Fall," a Jeymes Samuel western.

He also stars in "Judas and the Black Messiah" which is now in post-production, as the FBI informant who facilitated the raid in which Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton was killed.

Lakeith Stanfield at "People Now" on February 12, 2020 in New York | Source: Getty Images

Lakeith Stanfield at "People Now" on February 12, 2020 in New York | Source: Getty Images



In 2017, Stanfield took on the role of his life when he became a father for the first time. He and long-time partner, "The Mindy Project" actress Xosha Roquemore, welcomed their baby girl in June 2017.

Roquemore and the "Sorry to Bother You" star have kept both their personal lives and their daughter out of the limelight. The young boy who went hungry is now a successful actor and best of all, can provide his daughter with all the love and security that he so desperately needed as a child.

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