Home Celebrities Dwayne Johnson’s Life Story: Hard Childhood With Absent Father Followed by Poverty and Depression

Dwayne Johnson’s Life Story: Hard Childhood With Absent Father Followed by Poverty and Depression

by Tracy Finke

“What do I want? I want the world!” actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson revealed several years ago, and now he is slowly fulfilling his wish.

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Thanks to his movies and charisma, Dwayne has become one of the most beloved action heroes on screen, and in recent years he can boast about the status of the most lucrative star whose films make enormous amounts of money. But, for years, his fortune and fame seemed only like a crazy fantasy that would never come true.

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Dwayne Douglas Johnson was born on May 2, 1972, in Hayward, California, as the only child of Wade Douglas Bowles and Ata Johnson. His mother Ata was born as Feagaimaleata Fitisemanu Maivia, and she comes from the famous wrestling family, which has a dozen successful fighters. Her mom Lia was one of the first-ever women promoters in professional wrestling.

Read Also: Famous Rocky Johnson Passed Away: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Father Dies at 75

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Dwayne’s father, better known by the nickname Rocky Johnson, was a successful wrestler who, with his partner Tony Atlas, was the first man of color to win the prestigious World Tag Team Championship. Rocky passed away on January 15 after a heart attack that occurred as a consequence of deep vein thrombosis.

Read Also: Dwayne Johnson Reveals The Reason Behind His Father’s Demise

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Dwayne posted a heartbreaking goodbye note to his father on social media.

“I love you. You broke color barriers, became a ring legend and trail blazed your way thru this world. I was the boy sitting in the seats, watching and adoring you, my hero from afar. The boy you raised to always be proud of our cultures and proud of who and what I am. The boy you raised with the toughest of love. The intense work. The hard hand. The adoring boy who wanted to know only your best qualities. Who then grew to become a man realizing you had other deeply complicated sides that needed to be held and understood. Son to father. Man to man. That’s when my adoration turned to respect. And my empathy turned to gratitude. Grateful that you gave me life. Grateful you gave me life’s invaluable lessons”, Dwayne wrote on Instagram next to the video of Rocky Johnson’s introduction in the ring.

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I love you. You broke color barriers, became a ring legend and trail blazed your way thru this world. I was the boy sitting in the seats, watching and adoring you, my hero from afar. The boy you raised to always be proud of our cultures and proud of who and what I am. The boy you raised with the toughest of love. The intense work. The hard hand. The adoring boy who wanted to know only your best qualities. Who then grew to become a man realizing you had other deeply complicated sides that needed to be held and understood. Son to father. Man to man. That’s when my adoration turned to respect. And my empathy turned to gratitude. Grateful that you gave me life. Grateful you gave me life’s invaluable lessons. Dad, I wish I had one more shot to tell you, I love you, before you crossed over to the other side. But you were ripped away from me so fast without warning. Gone in an instant and no coming back. Im in pain. But we both know it’s just pain and it’ll pass. Now I’ll carry your mana and work ethic with me, as it’s time to move on because I have my family to feed and work to accomplish. Finally, I want you to rest your trailblazing soul, Soulman. Pain free, regret free, satisfied and at ease. You lived a very full, very hard, barrier breaking life and left it all in the ring. I love you dad and I’ll always be your proud and grateful son. Go rest high. #ripsoulman #rockyjohnson 🐐

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He continued: “Dad, I wish I had one more shot to tell you, I love you before you crossed over to the other side. But you were ripped away from me so fast without warning. Gone in an instant and no coming back. Im in pain. But we both know it’s just pain and it’ll pass. Now I’ll carry your mana and work ethic with me, as it’s time to move on because I have my family to feed and work to accomplish. Finally, I want you to rest your trailblazing soul, Soulman. Pain free, regret free, satisfied and at ease. You lived a very full, very hard, barrier breaking life and left it all in the ring. I love you, dad, and I’ll always be your proud and grateful son. Go rest high”.

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On his father’s birthday a couple of years ago, Dwayne Junior left an emotional message on Instagram and shared with his fans a glimpse into his relationship with his famous dad.

“Happy Birthday to my dad Rocky “Soulman” Johnson aka the original Rock! The man who broke color barriers for blacks in the world of Pro Wrestling in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s – back in the day when wrestling was not the global commercialized business it is today, but rather an extremely hardcore cut-throat business where he and other wrestlers would be paid in cash nightly and carry guns on them just case “things got a little out of hand” in these small towns all across the U.S. He started kickin’ my ass on the wrestling mats and in the gym when I was around 10yrs old and would always say, “If you throw up go outside and if you want sympathy go home to your mother.. but either way you’re gonna work your ass off to earn your respect.” The more experienced I become, the more grateful I am for my pops and all the defining DNA tools he’s given me”, The Rock wrote in the caption of the picture where father and the son are side by side.

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Happy Birthday to my dad Rocky "Soulman" Johnson aka the original Rock! The man who broke color barriers for blacks in the world of Pro Wrestling in the 60's, 70's and early 80's – back in the day when wrestling was not the global commercialized business it is today, but rather an extremely hard core cut throat business where he and other wrestlers would be paid in cash nightly and carry guns on them just case "things got a little out of hand" in these small towns all across the U.S. He started kickin' my ass on the wrestling mats and in the gym when I was around 10yrs old and would always say, "If you throw up go outside and if you want sympathy go home to your mother.. but either way you're gonna work your ass off to earn your respect." The more experienced I become, the more grateful I am for my pops and all the defining DNA tools he's given me. #HappyBirthdaySoulman #FirstBlackWWETagTeamChamps #NoSubstituteForHardWork #Ever #AndNoGoingHomeToMama 💪🏾

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“The more experienced I am, the more grateful I am to my dad for everything I inherited from him,” he said of his father, who was absent from his life due to frequent competitions and travel.

Due to his parents’ frequent travel, Dwayne lived with his mother’s parents in New Zealand, and later with his mother in Hawaii, while his father toured the various rings and fought, which wasn’t paid well. He was angry at his father for not being there, and for forcing him to relocate 13 times.

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The family barely made ends meet, and Ata barely had enough money to buy them food, after which there was no money left to pay the rent.

“We lived in a $ 120 per week apartment, when, one day, coming home we saw a padlock and the act of eviction. My mother began to cry. Where we were going to live? What would we do?. It happened when I was 14, and she didn’t have $ 180 worth of weekly rent”, said Dwayne, who was called Davy at the time. Decades later, his mother remembered the difficult days, and Dwayne shared that on social media.

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“Cool Mother’s Day story.. early am flight and I’m sittin’ across from my mom when out of the blue she looks around the plane, then looks at me and says ‘Son, I can’t believe the life I have.. grandma and grandpa would be so proud.’ I asked her, ‘Are you happy ma?’. Just then, the flight attendant placed my mom’s breakfast down on the table, and my mom said to me, ‘Am I happy?.. I used to worry about how I was going to buy groceries for us, and now I just had my breakfast placed down in front of me’. She bursts into tears and says, ‘Yes, son, I couldn’t be happier.’ This is the woman who, when I was 14yrs old we were evicted out of our apartment in Hawaii ’cause we couldn’t afford the $180 per week rent” the caption of his mother’s picture reads.

“She’s undoubtedly the strongest woman I know,” Dwayne said of her mother, who tried to keep her family together, even as she learned that her husband had been cheating for years. In addition to having a different lover in each city, Luan Crable has been a friend of his for intimate get-togethers. For almost a quarter of a century.

“Rocky was on the road 12 out of every 14 days, and that was crushing for Dwayne. It was very hard to watch because he was so sad all the time”, Luan said at the time. She also claimed that Dwayne once called her and yelled at her to stop hurting his mom immediately.

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Dwayne once stole Luan’s credit card from her purse and spent more than $ 3,000 at the mall. Despite all this, she maintained a relationship with a married wrestler for twenty years and was with him when he was accused of assaulting a 19-year-old girl. He claimed it was a setup by rival wrestlers and although the charges were dropped, Rocky was blacklisted from wrestling. According to Luan Crable, he “got depressed and started drinking.” Rocky and Ata soon divorced, and he stopped drinking.

Nevertheless, father and son got closer through the years. Rocky was saying his son is his pride and joy, and son was grateful for his father’s presence and involvement in his life and career.

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“Started training hard at 14 years old. Not for fame or a competition, but because we were evicted from our small apartment in Hawaii. I really hated that feeling of helplessness and never wanted that to happen again. So, I did the only thing I could control with my own two hands in hopes that one day my family would never worry about being evicted again – I trained”, Dwayne said at the time.

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Aside from practicing, he remembers the time after another event, which was attended by law enforcement.

Dwayne revealed that he lost his virginity at the age of 14, in a park, with the 18-year-old girl. “All of a sudden, a big spotlight came on us. Bang. You hear the cop roll down the window and say, ‘Ma’am, are you OK? Will you come to the car? She gets dressed, comes to the car. They say, ‘Are you being attacked?’ She says, ‘No, that’s my boyfriend. It was a complete nightmare”, he described that encounter with a smile.

It was then that the first signs of depression began to emerge, with which he later struggled repeatedly. Dwayne spoke openly about his mental health, and also shared stories about his struggle after his mother tried to commit suicide.

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“Struggle and pain are real. We’ve all been there on some level or another. My mom tried to check out when I was 15. She got outta the car on Interstate 65 in Nashville and walked into oncoming traffic. Big rigs and cars swerving outta the way not to hit her. I grabbed her and pulled her back on the gravel shoulder of the road. What’s crazy about that suicide attempt is to this day, she has no recollection of it whatsoever. Probably best she doesn’t” Dwayne opened up on Instagram a few years ago.

He built muscle and moved in the United States with his family, and by chance, became a high school athlete in Bethlehem High School. He was a rebellious teenager who did not want to obey school rules, and one day he decided not to go to the student bathroom, but to go into the chamber and use the toilet meant for professors only.

“Aside from the identity crisis I was having, I was also getting into trouble a lot. Multiple arrests by the time I was 16… So then we moved from Nashville to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. So when I moved there, I got in a fight right away, I got expelled from school, got arrested. I came back, and when I came back, I didn’t want to use the boys’ bathroom because it smelled like smoke… so I used the teachers’ bathroom… I’m washing my hands, a guy walks in, and he goes, ‘Hey, you can’t be in here,’ very stern. I was a punk at that time, I looked at him like, ‘Yeah, alright in a second.’ He screams, ‘Hey, you get outta here!’. He was bright red, veins everywhere. I kind of walked by him, brushed my shoulder by him”.

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Dwayne continues: “That night I went home, I felt bad, I knew I acted like a punk. I went to find him the next day and said, ‘Hey, I just want to apologise to you, I’m sorry for being so rude,’ and I just apologized and I stuck my hand out to him. He grabbed my hand, he shook it, he held onto it, he said, ‘I appreciate your apology, I want you to play football for me,’ and I went, ‘OK.’ It changed my life. I am here, I believe, in large part due to that man, his name is Jodie Swick, he has since passed away and I (thank him)”.

After the incident and the high school, Dwayne went on to play college football at the University of Miami. To maximize muscle and body mass, he started taking steroids, but only briefly. After becoming a replacement in the team, he often had injury issues.

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During one game, his shoulder popped up, and his inability to play and his hand, which he couldn’t use for several weeks, made him increasingly depressed so much that he did not want to go to the exams, but went to Tampa, where his parents resided. He came home and, for weeks, just sat on the couch.

“I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know why I didn’t want to do anything. I had never experienced anything like that. I didn’t want to do a thing. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was crying constantly. Eventually, you reach a point where you are all cried out”, he recalled.

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Johnson returned to college after the coach called him back. He was not selected by any of the big clubs in the draft. After graduating with a degree in criminal studies and psychology, he accepted the offer of the Canadian team Calgary Stampeders to play for them. The dream of a great career at some of the best clubs was dead, and the situation further worsened after he was transferred to a reserve team, where his salary was only $ 250 a week.

To pay the rent, he shared a two-bedroom apartment with three colleagues, and in one of the rooms, he slept on an old discarded mattress he found in a motel. And that only lasted two months, after which he was fired.

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All along, his three years older girlfriend Dany Garcia was beside him. He met her at the beginning of his studies as an 18-year-old. They quickly fell in love, and The Rock knew she would become his wife someday. Yet, before exchanging their marriage vows, they briefly broke up, just at the time when his football plans failed, which again threw him into depression.

He somehow reached Miami, and as he only had seven dollars in his pocket, he called his father and asked him to come and get him to his family home in Tampa. He admits that this period was the worst time of his life. After reconciling with Dany, he decided to go into the family business, or rather try his luck in the ring as a professional wrestler.

His father was against the idea because he knew how difficult it was to succeed in the business, but he nevertheless agreed to train him. In dedication to him and grandfather Peter Maivia, Dwayne chose “Rocky Maivia” as his stage name and also celebrated his Samoan origins. After several small trial matches, he was given the opportunity to perform for the WWE, where they were convinced he was an experienced fighter.

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“WWE thought that I already had multiple matches under my belt, but little did they know. What they also didn’t know was that I was broke as hell and didn’t actually own wrestling gear – no boots, knee pads, or, most importantly.. wrestling trunks. I went to Sports Authority and bought some bright ass white volleyball knee pads, called my Uncle and asked if he had ANY trunks I could use for my tryout. He said all I have is a pair of shiny purple trunks (purple was his signature color), I told him I don’t care if the trunks are all the colors of Skittles, I’ll happily wear them”, Dwayne said at the time.

New projects followed, led by his manager, wife Dany. Together they chose projects and decided that he should be represented in the acting world by a new agency. WWE was selected as the ideal one. Thanks to them, he gained better contacts in Hollywood, allowing him to work on better and more expensive films, which led him to the status of one of the highest-paid stars.

“I was told that I had to conform to a standard in Hollywood that would beget me more work, better roles. Which meant I had to stop going to the gym, which meant I couldn’t be as big, which meant you had to distance yourself from wrestling. You essentially had to deconstruct yourself”, he described.

The Rock began to gain roles despite his huge body, and at that time, he switched his martial arts career to a film career. His career flourished, and in August 2001, Dany gave birth to a daughter, Simone Alexandra, but a harmonious family life came to an end in 2008, when Dany and Dwayne divorced.

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“What kind of dad does this make me? What kind of man will I now become? Failing at marriage and as a husband was a heavy thing, and divorce had that special way of knocking me on my bottom”, he asked himself at the time.

Dwayne met Lauren Hashian met in 2006 when he made the movie “The Game Plan,” and they only started dating after he officially divorced. But there are speculations that the 12 years younger singer was the main reason for Rock’s split from Dany.

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“She embraced me and loved me when I was in my worst period. She helped me be the best I can be”, he said about Lauren, who gave birth to their daughter Jasmine in December 2015.

Read Also: Dwayne Johnson Shares an Emotional Message for His Daughter: “I Won’t Be Here for the Rest of Your Life”

“I’m always asked – What inspires you? My answer’s easy and honest.. what inspires me the most is always waitin’ for me to walk thru my front door when I come home. Happy 4 month birthday Jasmine! One day you’ll know just how happy, proud, lucky and blessed you, your sister and your mama make me. You’ll also thank me one day for your toughness and your mama’s everything else “, said now 47-year-old Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

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