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‘I’m Still Struggling to Try to Make a Dollar’: Kimora Lee Simmons’ Ex Djimon Hounsou Says Hollywood Has Been Lowballing Him for Years

Djimon Hounsou may be a two-time Academy Award-nominated actor, but he claims he’s been underpaid for years.

Hounsou has starred in movies such as “In America” and “Blood Diamond”; both films were nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor. He was in “Furious 7,” and a voice actor in animated films such as “Kung Fu Panda” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” He is in “Shazam!” as well as the movie’s sequel, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods.” The actor starred in Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad” — his breakthrough 1997 role — and in Ridley Scott’s blockbuster “Gladiator.” Obviously Hounsou has major Hollywood credits.

Still ‘Struggling’

Hounsou’s net worth was estimated to be around $12 million.

Born on April 24, 1964, in Cotonou, Benin, he moved to France at the age of 13 to pursue his education. When he moved to the United States in 1990, he began his career as a model, before transitioning to acting.

Hounsou recently opened up to The Guardian about his 33 years in the industry, and said he doesn’t earn what he should for an actor of his caliber. 

“I’m still struggling to try to make a dollar!” Hounsou told the UK outlet. “I’ve come up in the business with some people who are absolutely well off and have very little of my accolades. So I feel cheated, tremendously cheated, in terms of finances and in terms of the workload as well. I’ve gone to studios for meetings and they’re like: ‘Wow, we felt like you just got off the boat and then went back [after Amistad]. We didn’t know you were here as a true actor,’ When you hear things like that, you can see that some people’s vision of you, or what you represent, is very limiting. But it is what it is. It’s up to me to redeem that,” he said. 

He added, “I still have to prove why I need to get paid. They always come at me with a complete low ball: ‘We only have this much for the role, but we love you so much and we really think you can bring so much’… Film after film, it’s a struggle. I have yet to meet the film that paid me fairly.”

The discrimination he points to does not just apply to earnings. Hounsou said even when he was nominated for “Blood Diamond” for the best-supporting actor, he felt he had equal film time with co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, who was nominated for best lead character for the same film.

“I felt seriously cheated,” Hounsou told The Guardian. “Today, we talk so much about the Oscars being so White, but I remember there was a time where I had no support at all: no support from my own people, no support from the media, from the industry itself. It felt like: ‘You should be happy that you’ve got nominated,’ and that’s that.”

Acting While Black

In Hounsou’s criticism of Hollywood’s lowballing him, he pointed to a sentiment expressed by EGOT-winning actress Viola Davis, whose net worth is $25 million.

According to People, Hounsou said, “Viola Davis said it beautifully: she’s won an Oscar, she’s won an Emmy, she’s won a Tony and she still can’t get paid. “Film after film, it’s a struggle. I have yet to meet the film that paid me fairly.”

The Split

Kimora Lee Simmons and Djimon Hounsou called it quits on their high-profile coupledom in 2012, after being together for over five years and having a son.

They met in 2007, following her split from husband Russell Simmons. In 2009, they had their son, their first child together. At the time, Kimora Simmons also had daughters Ming, 12, and Aoki, 10, with her ex-husband.

Up until 2019, they were still battling over custody. That year, Hounsou asked a judge for joint custody. Russell Simmons defended his ex, telling TMZ that Hounsou threatened Kimora Simmons that he would move their then-10-year-old to Africa. Russell also told the outlet Hounsou has never paid Kimora child support.

Hounsou recently had a baby with his current partner, partner Riza Marie.

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