Lee Daniels, the director, and producer of productions like Empire, Precious, Monster’s Ball, and The Butler, opened up about his dark past and how it inspired him to be great at his craft and ascend to the level of success and height he enjoys today.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lee spent some time at Loyola Marymount University recently in an ongoing conversational series titled “The Hollywood Masters.”
Lee said he grew up around crime and violence, and a lot of his friends had gone to jail. The director said his life was difficult, he had to steal to eat, and it was the norm for him to be around crime.
Lee’s father was violent to him in comparison to other stars who credit their parents as contributing factors to their success. Fortunately for Lee, his grandmother kept him inspired and encouraged him to be the best that he could be.
“I come from a family of five, of brothers and sisters. And my grandmother could pass for a white. And she migrated from North Carolina with her sister. And she was a very powerful woman,” Lee recalled. “She married the blackest man possible. She was the first black woman to go to Duke University. She passed as white going in.”
During the course of his life, he would spend a lot of time with his grandmother while his parents were busy working.
His grandmother helped him come to the realization that he wanted something more out of his life. He had little money and traveled to Los Angeles where he had lived in the back of a church in Baldwin Hills, California.
Lee was determined to make it no matter what. He said he could make it on his own, and his grandmother helped him realize that.
No matter what hurdles came his way, Lee was “determined to make it.”
Lee opened his own nursing agency around the time the AIDS epidemic had hit Los Angeles.
The actor explained he thought it wasn’t his circumstances or his environment that caused his problems, but rather himself.
“Learning to love oneself, learning to believe in oneself. You know, I only did it as a vendetta to my dad, to show him that I was going to be something. I mean, it was about survival, showing him, but knowing deep down that I wasn’t worthy of it. So yeah, I think that myself would be, I am my worst enemy,” he explained.
Lee is 57-years-old now and is currently undergoing therapy, something he never thought he would be doing. According to Lee, therapy is something that black people don’t do.