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Date of Birth : Jan 2nd 1968

He earned himself a spot in the hearts of Americans with his energetic and heartfelt acceptance speech for his 1997 Oscar win, but Cuba Gooding Jr. is more than just an amusing Hollywood personality – he is a tremendously gifted actor who deserves his accolades.

Cuba was born in The Bronx district of New York on January 2nd, 1968. His dad, Gooding Sr., was a singer in the 70s sensation, The Ingredients – known for their hit single, Everybody Plays the Fool. With the hit came a sudden influx of money, and the family soon headed out west to Los Angeles. However, just when things seemed to be getting good for Cuba, his father split and took most of his money with him.

Cuba found peace in religion, becoming a born-again Christian at the age of 13. He attended four different high schools growing up and, always ambitious and charming, became class president at three of them. In 1984, he appeared at The Olympics, breakdancing on stage with singer Lionel Richie. Only 16 at the time, he enjoyed his taste of stardom and soon started acting.

The father of a friend (an agent) signed Cuba after seeing him in a school play, and television commercials soon followed. It soon became apparent to Cuba that if he really wanted to succeed, he had some things to learn. He enrolled in acting lessons to get the training he needed – and it payed off.

After a brief role in Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America, Cuba landed the lead role in director John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood. One of the first films to deal with urban black youth in a serious manner, it galvanized the theatre-going public with its tragic tale. Cuba was Tre Styles, a young man who is desperate to get out of South Central Los Angeles. Cuba left his mark – and many projected great things for the young actor.

None of which would materialize. With so few good roles available for black talent, he could not compete with such established names as Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes. Cuba continued to work, but in lackluster and often ridiculously bad films. Not one to complain, he used his paychecks to build a life for himself. He married his high school sweetheart (Sara Kapfer, a teacher’s aide) with whom he has two sons, Spencer and Mason.

When director Cameron Crowe began casting his new film, Jerry Maguire, Cuba petitioned for the role of the football star. He auditioned on several occasions, and hounded Crowe for the opportunity. He knew that he was right for the role and finally convinced Crowe to cast him. Cuba’s instincts were right, as the role – and its trademark show me the money line – brought him a lot of attention, not to mention an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. His dazzling acceptance speech only added to the growing affection that audiences had for him.

Once again, Cuba was surrounded by predictions of great things to come, but he was all the wiser from past experience and has taken things more slowly this time around. He obviously is not content to sink into obscurity again, and wants to remain on top. If his recent work is any guide, he most certainly will.


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