Pauletta Washington, a television and film actress and wife of actor Denzel, recalls the time last year she encountered a beautiful young homeless woman outside the door of her Los Angeles gym. She subsequently gave her $200 and a backpack containing drinking water, toothpaste and underwear.
“The sight of that woman still burns my heart,” Pauletta said by phone.
The couple will be honored for their contributions to the arts and acts of charity large and small Wednesday night at the Princess Grace Foundation-USA’s gala at Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan.
In the past 25 years the foundation dedicated to the memory of actress Grace Kelly has given about 700 awards totaling more than $8 million to emerging theater, dance and film artists in the U.S.
The nonprofit, which aids emerging artists, will give the Washingtons the Prince Rainier III Award, named after Kelly’s husband, the former ruling monarch of the Principality of Monaco, who died in 2005.
“Denzel and Pauletta have two extraordinary qualities in that they are outstanding artists in their own right and their charitable support is also outstanding,” Toby Boshak, the Princess Grace Foundation’s executive director, said in a phone interview.
Denzel Washington has had leading roles in the biopic “Malcolm X” (1992) and “American Gangster” (2007). He won an Academy Award for Best Actor as the ruthless detective Alonzo Harris in the 2001 film “Training Day.” This year, he received a Tony Award for his lead role as the sanitation worker Troy in August Wilson’s “Fences.”
Pauletta, a native of Newton, North Carolina, who appeared in the film “Beloved,” oversees the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. It gives awards of as much as $2,500 a month for undergraduates, graduates or medical-school students to study under Dr. Keith Black, the chairman of Cedars-Sinai’s neurosurgery department.
“We are so blessed, and we are blessed to be a blessing to others,” she said. “That’s our family mantra about giving. “The main thing is to have an appreciation for what we have, and we teach that to our children.” They have four children in their late teens and early 20s. Denzel Washington declined to be interviewed.
The Princess Grace Foundation gala, a highlight of New York’s fall gala season, attracts royalty and leaders from the worlds of finance, entertainment, luxury goods and real estate. The foundation’s chairman is Princess Caroline of Monaco.
Actors and Equity
Expected attendees include Lorraine Bracco (“The Sopranos”); Viola Davis, who played opposite Denzel Washington in “Fences” and will present the Prince Rainier III Award; television producer Dick Wolf (“Law & Order” franchise); and actors David Schwimmer (“Friends”) and Matthew Settle (“Gossip Girl”). Former U.S. Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman , founder of the private equity firm of J.F. Lehman & Co., is the foundation’s board chairman.
Pauletta Washington said that as a young actress, she had always admired Grace Kelly, who died in 1982 in a car accident while driving daughter Stephanie.
“This honor is very, very special to me and Denzel because of its giving and what the organization stands for,” she said.
Denzel, who joined the Boys & Girls Clubs of America as a child, received its highest honor six years ago for his longtime support as a donor and as a spokesman since 1992.
He also can be inspired to write a check on the spot, his wife said. In 2004, after visiting hospitalized U.S. Army personnel at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, he decided to donate an undisclosed amount on the spot to the Fisher House Foundation Inc., which provides housing for families of those recovering in military and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.
The following year, the couple joined the nonprofit’s board, Fisher House spokeswoman Cindy Campbell said by phone.
“He looked at me during that visit, and he had that look in his eye, and he said, ‘we’re going to build a house,’” Pauletta Washington said.
The Princess Grace Foundation gala is Wednesday at Cipriani 42nd Street, 110 E. 42nd Street in Manhattan. Tickets begin at $1,000. Information: +1-212-245-6570.