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Denzel Washington’s Wife Turned Down His Proposal Twice - They Are Still Strong after 39 Years Together

Oyin Balogun
Mar 14, 2022
11:20 A.M.
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Denzel Washington's love story with his wife, Pauletta Pearson, is one of Hollywood's best. However, the union many have come to covet nearly never happened.


Denzel Washington is considered by many to be one of the best actors of his time, but for "The Equalizer" actor, being the husband of his long-term wife, Pauletta Pearson, is his favorite role.

The couple has been married for almost four decades and has one of the longest marriages in Hollywood. They met in the mid-1970s after working on the 1975 television film "Wilma," in which Washington played Olympian Wilma Rudolph's husband and Pearson acted as a fellow track athlete.

[Left] Denzel Washington poses for a photocall presenting his movie 'The taking of Pelham 123' at Hotel Le Bristol on July 20, 2009; [Right] Actor Denzel Washington and his wife Pauletta Pearson attend the world premiere of "American Gangster" on October 19, 2007 | Source: Getty Images


The movie was Pearson's debut project. Washington recalled meeting Pearson on her final day of filming at a hotel restaurant. The Hollywood icon didn't realize she was "the one" immediately since there was no formal introduction.

A year later, Washington and Pearson stumbled into each other at a party. The actor had gone to see a play, and on getting there, he saw that Pearson was around.

Pearson shared their story with Oprah Winfrey in 1996, recalling how they met. A mutual friend formally introduced her and Washington at the end of a party. 

Denzel Washington wears tank top | Source: Getty Images


As luck would have it, Pearson attended a play the next day, and when the lights came on, she realized she had been sitting close to Washington all the while. It felt like fate for the movie stars, and they began to build a close friendship.

The couple's relationship has featured several heartwarming moments, though some have been somewhat embarrassing. Washington once recalled running out of money during their first date, so Pearson had to pay for the cab.


Pauletta Washington, Denzel Washington and mother | Source: Getty Images


Many fans have come to admire Pearson and Washington's lovely relationship, but it may come as a surprise that Washington had to work hard to persuade Pearson to walk down the aisle.

In a 2013 interview, the longtime lovers opened up about Washington's numerous proposals. However, Pearson repeatedly gave the 67-year-old movie icon a "no" response. It was only on his third attempt that she gave him his desired response.

Pauletta Pearson and actor Denzel Washington arrive at the premiere of Twentieth Century Fox's "Unstoppable" at Regency Village Theater on October 26, 2010 | Source: Getty Images


Since they tied the knot, Washington and Pearson have remained an inspirational couple in Hollywood. Their union has since become a great example to their fans.

The couple's marriage has been far from perfect, but they've stayed together. Washington once opened up about the secret of their long-term marriage. The actor remarked,

"It's hard work, you know. But we made a commitment. A spiritual foundation helps everything – marriage, work, peace of mind."

Pauletta Washington and Denzel Washington during "Sunset Blvd" Los Angeles Premiere | Source: Getty Images


The "The Equalizer 2" actor also joked that doing what he's told has saved their marriage many troubles. Washington credits Pearson with the success of their almost four decades together.

The actor remarked that many things come to mind when he thinks of Pearson's contribution to their marriage. In his words, "What pops into my head: security, food, a beautiful home."

The actor further added, "My wife has made our house a home, and raised these beautiful kids [John David, Katia, and twins Olivia and Malcolm,] and protected them and sacrificed for them; she did the heavy lifting."

Actor Denzel Washington and Pauletta Washington arrive at the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 | Source: Getty Images


Washington later joked that he had been captivated by Pearson's culinary skills. The actor feels grateful for the support and care he has received from the "Steps" actress in their almost four decades together.

Washington and Pearson's marriage has been tested several times. The 67-year-old came under heavy scrutiny in 2013 when pictures of him grabbing a young blonde woman's arm and pulling her in for a kiss were shared on the internet.

Sources claimed Pearson was about to leave their marriage, but Washington's representatives issued a statement to counter such claims. Three years later, news emerged that the couple was on shaky grounds, but the lovebirds remained strong once again.


Denzel Washington and Pauletta Washington attend the "Safe House" premiere at the SVA Theater on February 7, 2012 | Source: Getty Images

Washington and his wife renewed their vows in 1996, years after they married. Desmond Tutu officiated the ceremony. Washington later shared funny memories from their first wedding ceremony.


The actor claimed he and his young bride were kept busy by their guests, taking pictures and responding to congratulatory messages, and had forgotten to eat. The couple was disappointed to find out that they had run out of food.

Washington has made up for the fun experience and has given Pearson a beautiful life. The couple is also supportive of each other. Although Pearson has an impressive career, she's never felt belittled by her husband's success.

Pearson said she always knew Washington would get more shine than her and decided to support him. Their stardom made no difference in their bond. The couple prevents their fame from getting in between them.



Pauletta Washington and Denzel Washington attend The 59th New York Film Festival Opening Night - The Tragedy Of Macbeth at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on September 24, 2021 | Source: Getty Images

Besides having a successful career, Washington is also a proud dad of four children. The "The Equalizer" actor shares son John David Washington, 37, daughter Katia, 34, and twins Malcolm and Olivia, 30, with his wife.


Washington is proud to see some of his kids follow his steps in pursuing a career in Hollywood. The actor also admitted that his parenting skills were sometimes tough, but it helped instill the culture of hard work and discipline.

Malcolm Washington, Katia Washington, Pauletta Washington, and Denzel Washington attend the American Film Institute's 47th Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute to Denzel Washington at Dolby Theatre on June 06, 2019 | Source: Getty Images


Washington's first child, John David, born a year after his parents' wedding, is a leading name in Hollywood and has appeared in several movies since the '90s. David was introduced to acting by his dad as a little boy, but he had an interest in sports at the time.

David played football at the college level and was later signed by the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent in the NFL in 2006. He later played in the NFL in Europe and was drafted by the California Redwoods of the UFL in 2009. 

Actor Denzel Washington and Olivia Washington arrive at the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 13, 2013 | Source: Getty Images


The 37-year-old reignited his spark for acting in the early 2010s. He has acted in movies such as "Malcolm & Marie" and the television series "Baller" from 2015 until 2019.

Katia, Washington's second child, has a law degree from Yale University in 2010 and has also worked as a movie producer in Hollywood. She's worked on movies such as "Pieces of a Woman," "Assassination Nation," and "Fences."

Malcolm and Olivia, Washington's twins, have also enjoyed successful careers, like their older siblings. Malcolm has worked as a producer and director on movies such as "The Last Bookstore."

Actor Denzel Washington, Wife Pauletta Washington and Son Malcolm arrive at The 30th Anniversary Carousel Of Hope Ball at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 25, 2008 | Source: Getty Images


Olivia attended New York University, and after graduation, she joined the family's passion of finding a place in Hollywood. She has appeared in movies such as "Great Performances" and "Chicago P.D."

Washington previously remarked that his kids are not perfect, but he described them as kind, humble, and generous. The actor is undoubtedly thrilled by the success of his little ones and his bonded family.