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TheGrio’s Touré talked to the former wrestler and current film star about being an inspiration and maintaining positivity while breaking down barriers in Hollywood.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson received theGrio Inspirational Icon Award because he is undoubtedly inspiring. I’ll admit it — I am inspired by his body. His heavily muscled frame is the result of years of hard work, and it’s proof of his discipline, athletic ability and commitment to himself. It makes him look like he’s the epitome of fitness — of course, his home gym is insane. I’m also inspired by his spirit — anytime I hear him talk, he’s saying something encouraging or uplifting. He seems like a well of positivity.
I’m also inspired by his ascent in Hollywood. He’s an unlikely Hollywood star. He’s mixed and probably ethnically ambiguous to a lot of people. He’s also a former pro wrestler. There’s no predecessor in his lane. But more than just becoming a star, he’s built himself into one of the biggest stars in the game — he’s a Black actor who can sell tickets around the world, thus shattering the old saw about how Black stars can’t be successful in other countries. The Rock has done all of that and more while creating wholesome movies that you can take the whole family to. How can you not like this guy?
I interviewed The Rock after TheGrio Awards in October. It was the first time I had ever met him. His frame is jaw-dropping, but even though he’s got a warrior’s body, he’s also got a very gentle, warm, kind, humble way about him. He seems like a teddy bear. He’s gracious and polite and sweet. It’s really nice to see someone who’s huge, literally and figuratively, yet who’s also very down to earth.
Before the interview began, as the crew finished their last prep tasks, I asked him something of personal interest. I’m newly obsessed with weightlifting and, since he’s an expert, I asked him about his workouts. I asked him this: When he does sets, does he lift a certain number of reps or does he go until failure, as in, lifting until the muscles say they cannot lift even once more? He extolled the value of going to failure. That’s how you get those gains, y’all. Gym folks know what’s up. But I digress.
“When I first got to Hollywood,” The Rock said when the cameras were rolling, “Hollywood was a little unsure what to do with me. Half-Black, half-Samoan, coming from the world of pro wrestling, there’s no blueprint for that … and not everybody was welcoming to me.” He didn’t go deep into what he did to turn it all around, but his point was that becoming a movie star was very hard. He had to make his own path. He came in with a unique look and some fame, but he still had to put in the long hours in order to be ready when his shot came.
His rise is the product of hard work and smart self-marketing. He turned himself into a global star even though Hollywood has long thought Black actors could not be global stars. The Rock said he figured out early on that the key to becoming a movie star is to make the audience love you. He mapped out a strategy and followed it. He became a global movie star by traveling to countries and making sure he was known to the people there. He told himself, “I’m gonna go to every country and I’m gonna spend time there and I’m gonna put in that equity and eventually, even if the movie didn’t do that well, it was the fact that I had boots on the ground there, I was there in the culture just selling me.”
Just being near The Rock, with all that positivity, that can-do spirit and the massive muscles was inspiring. He inspired me to want to go do 100 pushups. He inspired me to want to say positive, nurturing things to myself. He inspired me to want to be the best person I could be. His positive energy is contagious, and that’s a big reason why he’s an inspiration to so many.
Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.
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