Benin Republic’s most popular export, Djimon Hounsou, is an award-winning actor and model who has starred in numerous movies, most famously Gladiator in 2000 and Blood Diamond in 2006 for which he got an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Hounsou continues to be a source of inspiration to African children who aspire to make it big in Hollywood.
For an actor who has been nominated for the Academy Award twice, with a long list of projects in the small and big screens, it is hard to imagine a time the actor was homeless. If anything, it shows that Djimon has come a long way in his pursuit of the good life. Let’s tell his story.
Djimon Hounsou Began His Career as a Model
Djimon Hounsou was named Djimon Gaston Hounsou after he was born on April 24, 1964, in Cotonou, Benin Republic’s largest city and economic capital. He is the fifth child of his parents, Albertine and Pierre Hounsou, who worked as a cook in Côte d’Ivoire.
Hounsou had a tough upbringing as he grew up without his parents. He only met his father for the first time when he was around the age of 10. By the time he was 13, he and his older brother named Edmond moved to France on a student visa. However, almost immediately they arrived, Hounsou dropped out of school and had to live on the streets, as well as scavenge for food from the trash.
He was also no longer legal in the country, which meant he had to avoid getting noticed or caught by the police to avoid deportation. What came to his aid was his good looks as he was noticed by a photographer who saw potential in him becoming a model. The photographer invited him to an audition where he met the famous French designer, Thierry Mugler, who helped to establish him as a high-end fashion model.
Transition Into His Dream of Being an Actor
As a model, Djimon Hounsou traveled the world. His collaborations with Mugler took him to the United States in 1990, where he began to pursue his longtime ambition of being an actor. He started by appearing in music videos such as Janet Jackon’s ‘Love Will Never Do (Without You)’ and Paula Abdul’s ‘Straight Up’ before getting his first movie role in ‘Without You I’m Nothing.’ A couple of appearances followed on some popular TV series such as ‘ER’ and ‘Beverly Hills’ before catching his big break in the 1994 Science fiction film, ‘Stargate,’ directed by Roland Emmerich.
An even bigger role came three years later in the 1997 Steven Spielberg film titled ‘Amistad,’ where he featured alongside Anthony Hopkins and Morgan Freeman. Djimon Hounsou described the movie as a powerful story about Africans that define African Americans’ legacy in ways that a lot of people are not comfortable discussing. The movie went a long way to establish his name as a part of Hollywood.
He further proved himself in ‘Gladiator’ (2000) and then in ‘In America’ (2004), which got him an Oscar nomination, making him the fourth African male to ever get one at the time. Another Oscar Awards nomination, as well as nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and Broadcast Film Critics Association, came for his performance in ‘Blood Diamonds’ in 2006. He, however, won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor.
The Project That Ingrained His Name In The Heart of The Industry
There is no doubt that the Beninese-American actor is most known for his roles in Gladiator, In America, and Blood Diamond. While the characters he portrayed in those films showed he had a lot to offer, other projects have earned him a place among those who are difficult to ignore because of the kind of roles they play.
They include the characters he has played for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe. For the latter, he has played the wizard Shazam in ‘Shazam!’ (2019) and the Fisherman King in ‘Aquaman’ (2018). For Marvel, he was Korath the Pursuer in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014) and then in ‘Captain Marvel’ (2019). He’s also voicing the character in ‘What If…?’, an upcoming animated series.
Since his breakthrough, Djimon Hounsou has worked on more than 20 different screen projects, as well as continued his lucrative modeling career. He does a lot of charity work and is also a prominent and outspoken activist in the fight against climate change. Djimon Hounsou’s net worth is estimated to be around $12 million.
The Truth About His Relationship With Kimora Lee Simmons
Djimon Hounsou was believed to be married to former fashion model Kimora Lee Simmons, who was previously married to Def Jam founder, Russell Simmons. Some reports, as well as statements by Djimon and Kimora, however, insist that they were not legally married.
From what we gathered, they only performed a traditional commitment ceremony in Hounsou’s home country, which they clearly described as not a wedding ceremony. Djimon began dating Kimora in 2007, just after she separated from Russell Simmons.
The next year, they visited Benin and bonded in a traditional Beninese commitment ceremony, which cannot be recognized as a legal union in the United States. Nonetheless, people came to believe they are man and wife as Djimon was described as Kimora’s husband on her reality series titled ‘Kimora: Life In The Fab Lane.’ The couple separated in November 2012, and it is not known why they parted ways, but some reports claim they fell apart after having a big fight over money. What they had was blessed with a son named Kenzo Lee Hounsou, who was born on May 30, 2009.
Who Has The Actor Dated Since Kimora?
Before his relationship with Kimora, Djimon Hounsou was romantically linked to Kola Boof and Debbie Allen. None of this was ever confirmed. After his separation from Kimora, which had him pissed at some point for not getting enough time with his son, the actor stayed off the dating radar.
To the best of our knowledge, it was thought that he hadn’t kept any serious relationship until he appeared with a lady whose identity is yet to be verified for Aquaman premiere. The story is, however, different for Kimora who moved almost immediately and got married to Tim Leissner in 2013.