In 1989, my mother took me to an “R” rated movie. It may have been my first. She’s not a bad parent, just one operating under extraordinary circumstances. It was the opening weekend of Glory, my Dad was traveling for work and there was no baby sitter available. Mum said, “I got to see Denzel!” So off to theatre we went.
I was more into Barbie than boys, and I appropriately I knew nothing of men. But then Denzel Washington graced the screen and I understood Mum’s urgency to get to the show. I’d heard women in the beauty shop speak of him, excitedly describing him as, “That is a mayyyy-ann!!!” But my head was buried in a video game, a reflection of my disinterest. But watching Denzel’s perfect shirtless browness as he accepted a punishment at the whipping post and that singular tear that ran from his eye? The image was moving in real time across the screen, but slow motion in my mind. Just like that, I knew those ladies at the shop were on to something. At the tender age of 10, I had my first crush: Denzel.
Twenty some odd years later, he’s still at the top of my list, and if you’ve been blessed to peep his latest cover and photo spread in GQ where he’s still looking like a bag of money, I’m sure I don’t need to explain why. Denzel’s talking about reading his Bible daily, the upcoming elections and he’s looking fit as ever. He’s suited right by a crisp tailor, and that salt and pepper beard framing that infectious smile as he walks toward me — yes, me! — had me staring at my laptop screen stuck on stupid. It just doesn’t make any sense for one man to be that fine.
At 57, he’s working on his 42nd film, a rare feat in an industry where stars rise and fall, and come and go before we can even remember their name. Since Glory, I’ve headed to the theatre many times to see “the Denzel movie.” And for all the years he’s been on my radar, I’ve appreciated — in addition to his looks — that he’s respected his audience by choosing roles with a purpose and portraying intelligent, purposeful characters, from Malcolm X to Rubin “Hurricane” Carter even to John Q, a story about a black father doing the unthinkable to protect his son, which often receives negative reviews. (I stayed up till 3 a.m. watching it on cable just last week.)
His off-camera life only adds to allure. When so many celebs rely on gimmicks and antics to boost their career, Denzel relies on his body of work to speak for itself. And in an era where so many black celeb men choose non-black women to partner with or replace their first wife with another — and for clarity, I have nothing against interracial dating or second marriages — I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a visceral reaction to seeing images of Denzel walking the red carpet with his beautifully black wife of nearly thirty years by his side.
For all these reasons, I’m looking forward to seeing Denzel’s new film, 2 Guns, and I don’t even know what it’s about, nor do I need to. This won’t be the first or the last time, I’ve shown up to see one his movies, popcorn in hand and without a clue of what’s going on, beyond “Denzel’s in it.” I’m sure I’ll see you there.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk