Who Is Denzel Washington’s Wife? Get to Know His Leading Lady, Pauletta Washington!

"I would not be alive without Pauletta Washington," Denzel once said. "I wouldn't survive."

Two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington is frequently hailed as one of the greatest actors of all time and a charismatic, mesmerizing leading man in everything from powerful dramas to dynamic action thrillers—but he still considers his role as husband to his better half, wife Pauletta Washington, as the most important one he's ever taken on.

"There is no secret to the perfect marriage," he told The Guardian in 2010. "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."

Here’s what we know about Denzel Washington's wife Pauletta Washington.

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Who is Denzel Washington married to?

Pauletta Washington was born Pauletta Pearson on Sept. 28, 1950, in Newton, North Carolina, where she was raised alongside her sister, fellow actress Rita Pearson. Her father was a school principal and her mother was a teacher. Pauletta made history in 1970 as the first Black contestant in the Miss North Carolina pageant, where she finished as the second runner-up.

Pauletta is a vocalist and classically trained pianist; in fact, by age 10, she was competing in piano competitions. Her piano studies later led her to the North Carolina School of the Arts, The Juilliard School in New York, and graduate work at North Texas University. She got a job in musical theater at the Six Flags Over Texas theme park and loved it, but ultimately took the advice of her Six Flags musical director and moved to New York. There, she acted on Broadway until 1977, when she began venturing into film.

She is a member of the Spelman Board of Trustees and is one of the founding and executive members of The Brain Trust of Cedars-Sinai, a group that raises awareness and funds for brain care and research; she and Denzel both have been involved with the organization for over 20 years. Their family has also established the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Gifted Scholars Program, a community outreach program that enables undergraduate, graduate and medical students with an interest in science to work on exciting research projects underway in neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai.

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How did Denzel Washington meet his wife, Pauletta?

Denzel and Pauletta began dating in the late 1970s after working together on the 1975 TV biopic Wilma, in which Denzel played Olympian Wilma Rudolph’s husband and Pauletta played a fellow track star.

Pauletta also told Oprah in 1996 about their meeting, “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.” Then something truly spectacular happened. “The next night, I attended a play. I got there late, 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."

Denzel once revealed on Jimmy Kimmel Live that Pauletta had to pay for the cab ride on their first date because he ran out of money.

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Is Pauletta Washington still an actress?

Yes! Pauletta still acts, most recently appearing as Rachel Franklin, Aretha Franklin’s grandmother, in the series Genius: Aretha. She also starred in the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, and was seen in the 2021 film Steps executive produced by Shaquille O’Neal.

It was announced in the summer of 2021 that she'll be starring in a new project alongside Jennifer Hudson. They'll both appear in a seven-segment film called Tell it Like a Woman, directed by actress Taraji P. Henson.

Does Pauletta Washington sing?

In a 2011 appearance on The Wendy Williams Show, Washington shared that she considered herself to be more of a musician than an actress. She explained that it was because she was both a pianist and a vocalist. She also explained her reasoning for wanting to take a break from work to raise her children. “When I became pregnant,” Washington said, “I thought I had such a stable childhood with my mom, coming home and seeing my mom.” She said at the time of her pregnancy, Denzel was shooting the series St. Elsewhere in Los Angeles, while she was in New York doing Broadway. After considering the distance she thought, “Where would the child be?” She confirmed it was her choice “to be home and create a home" and said she was happy with her decision.

How many kids do Denzel and Pauletta Washington they have?

The couple has four children. Denzel and Pauletta had their first child in 1984, a son named John David Washington—who's recently become an A-lister in his own right, starring in Tenet and BlacKkKlansman.

Pauletta Washington, John David Washington and Denzel Washington<p>Bruce Glikas/WireImage</p>
Pauletta Washington, John David Washington and Denzel Washington

Bruce Glikas/WireImage

Three years after John David was born, they had a daughter, Katia, and then in 1991, they had twins Olivia and Malcolm.

Malcolm Washington, Katia Washington, Pauletta Washington and Denzel Washington<p>Gregg DeGuire/WireImage</p>
Malcolm Washington, Katia Washington, Pauletta Washington and Denzel Washington

Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Katia earned a law degree from Yale University in 2010 and has worked on several films, including Pieces of a Woman, Assassination Nation, Fences, and brother John David's Malcolm & Marie.

Malcolm graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013 and works as a producer and director in the industry as well; some of his credits include The Last Bookstore, Trouble Man and Benny Got Shot, North Hollywood, The Dispute and Summer of 17.

Olivia Washington and Denzel Washington at the 2013 <a href="https://parade.com/tv/golden-globes-2023" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Golden Globes;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Golden Globes</a><p>George Pimentel/WireImage</p>
Olivia Washington and Denzel Washington at the 2013 Golden Globes

George Pimentel/WireImage

Olivia graduated from New York University and works as a model and actress. She has appeared in several productions including Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, and A Holiday in Harlem. 

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How many times has Denzel Washington been married? 

Denzel has only been married one time and that’s to Pauletta—although he had to propose to her three times before she said yes!

How long have Denzel and Pauletta Washington been married?

Pauletta and Denzel have been married for 38 years. They tied the knot on June 25, 1983. In 1995, the Washingtons renewed their vows during a romantic trip in South Africa. Well-known activist and Archbishop Desmond Tutu officiated the ceremony.

Denzel is always paying tribute to the lady in his life. When he received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019, he reflected on their relationship: "Forty years of sacrifice. Forty years of forgiveness. She taught me about faith, spirituality, love, real love, unwavering love, in spite of myself. The difference between a house and a home, it's a big difference. 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."

"I would not be alive without Pauletta Washington," he added. "I wouldn't survive."

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