The Untold Truth Of Regina King

You might just say that Regina King is the reigning queen of Hollywood. She has been on the scene for decades, and her star is still rising. 

As a teenager in the 1980s, King got her first taste of fame playing Brenda Jenkins on the hit comedy 227. Since then, the actress has worked steadily with standout roles in movies like Boyz n the Hood, Jerry Maguire, Miss Congeniality 2, and the critically acclaimed If Beal Street Could Talk, for which she won an Academy Award. In between her memorable stints on the big screen, King has stayed true to her television roots, starring in programs like Southland, American Crime, and Watchmen and directing episodes of Scandal, Being Mary Jane, Shameless, and more.

But what makes this actress-director-producer tick? And how did she get to be the triple threat she is today? This is the untold truth of Regina King.

Regina King pursued art when she was young

Regina King is an amazing talent, but, as a child, her mother encouraged her to study and pursue art, according to a Marie Claire feature profiling the actress. "My mom allowed us to take any art we wanted to take, if she could afford it, but we had to finish it out," she told the magazine in 2019.

King also described her mom as "granola," explaining to Marie Claire that they were not permitted to eat sugary cereal and consumed a diet heavy on kale — before it was trendy. Based on that detail alone, we'd guess King's mom knew all the best ways to cook with kale and used kale as a secret ingredient in recipes.

Despite the playful hippie-heavy jabs, King's love for her mother is evident, as is her deep-rooted respect for the grounded upbringing her mom provided. According to E! News, while accepting the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role for her portrayal of Sharon Rivers in If Beale Street Could Talk, King thanked her mother. "I'm an example of what it looks like when support and love is poured into someone." She continued, "Mom, I love you so much. Thank you for teaching me that god is always leaning, always has been leaning in my direction," she said.

Regina King originally wanted this career for herself

With a mouth full of perfect pearly white teeth, Regina King has a smile that lights up a room — and the silver screen. It would seem that the actress cares a lot about her teeth and works diligently to keep her grin healthy. In fact, growing up, King was so fascinated by oral hygiene that she had serious ambitions to study to become a dentist, according to an interview with The Guardian.

She fondly recalled going to the dentist as a child for The Guardian, saying, "I'd floss to impress him. He made the experience fun. He made me understand how important your periodontal situation is." Decades later, she could even remember the name of her childhood dentist's wife and assistant, Babe, and happily reminisced to The Guardian about her white "cotton candy" hair.

A good set of teeth is an asset King appreciates in others as well. During a Marie Claire interview, King mentioned that she only once dated a man with bad teeth. "I never said anything, and after we broke up, he gets his teeth fixed," she told the magazine.

This was the first audition that landed Regina King a gig

Every actor has a first successful audition story, and Regina King's is pretty amusing. She told W magazine that she was about 10 years old when she had her first big audition for a McDonald's commercial. "And that was my first experience of the spit bucket, for when that quarter-pounder with cheese that tasted so good at 10:00 a.m., at 11:00 tastes like dirt. So you bite into it and 'Mmm!' Spit," she recalled in her interview. She elaborated that, under most circumstances, her mother wouldn't allow her to eat fast food, so she wanted to relish the opportunity. She recounted the gleeful experience, saying, "I have struck gold. But I think they just saw this little girl's face getting sour. And they let me know, 'Well, you don't have to actually eat it.' I was like, 'Wow!'"

These days, King tries to maintain a healthier diet. She told Health that she eats one salad minimum every day. But that doesn't mean she's above a good splurge. "I love all food! It depends on the mood. I love sweets. I love fried foods. You fry it, I'll try it," she said.

Regina King went to public high school, even after landing a big TV role

After Regina King landed the role of Brenda on the hit television series 227 as a teenager, you'd think her life would have changed significantly. But, even as she started to gain fame and recognition, King continued living as a regular young girl. In fact, she went to and graduated from a public high school. She told New Hampshire Public Radio that she really had no choice in the matter — her mother insisted.

She talked to NHPR about the experience of juggling a blossoming acting career with high school high jinx, and it turns out this very balancing act kept her grounded. Noting that she'd started attending auditions when she was 10 or 11 years old, she said, "So I felt pretty regular, I have to say. I felt pretty normal, and I'm really grateful for that because I still get my own dry cleaning to this day."

It took time for Regina King to make peace with her ex-husband

Regina King penned an essay about divorce in the book He Never Came Home: Interviews, Stories, and Essays from Daughters on Life Without Their Fathers. It was later republished in Essence. In this emotional deep dive, King talked about being the product of divorce and going through one of her own.

In the piece, she recounted her experience growing up with parents who constantly sparred and who eventually separated. While she maintained a relationship with her dad for many years, she noted that his presence became more sporadic as she grew older. "Girls need their dads in their lives for so many reasons. There are certain things about life and relationships that only a father can teach his daughter," she wrote. 

The importance of having both parents present stuck with King even as she went through her own relationship trials. After nine years of marriage, King and her husband divorced, according to her essay. She discussed her struggle to make peace with what she called the "messiness that had gone down," stating, "It wasn't easy, but we started putting in the work it took to find our way back to a friendship."

Regina King is a super mom

Regina King has had some incredible roles, but one of her most important gigs is that of mom to her now adult son, Ian, according to HuffPost.

In a 2011 interview with CNN, she reflected on her life as a mom and the unparalleled perspective motherhood brought to her world. "You don't know what unconditional love is. You may say you do, but if you don't have a child, you don't know what that is," she shared. She elaborated, stating that being a mother is what she identifies as the best thing about herself. 

And Ian can attest to his mother's commitment to the role. He told E! News that King is, indeed, a "super mom." He explained that the actress has always been able to separate her life on set from her world at home, enabling them to make the most of their mother-son time together. 

Regina King is passionate about philanthropy

As noted by Variety, Regina King is committed to her work with the I Have a Dream Foundation, an organization that seeks to help low-income youth pursue educational opportunities with financial support. "I am doing what God meant for us all to do." She continued, "You have to put your money where your mouth is. If you believe in the future, it starts with fertilizing those babies, those seeds," she stated.

This isn't the only time King has supported a cause she feels passionately about. In 2007, according to WebMD, the actress underwent a public HIV test to raise awareness in the African American community about the critical importance of getting tested. "If I can be honest and help them realize it's not just who they sleep with, but who their partner has slept with, then maybe I can be a part of protecting a lot of people," she shared.

Regina King is a big-time sports fan

Regina King loves sports. She told African American Literature Book Club that she's a "huge sports fanatic," and elaborated that she could likely "go toe-to-toe with any guy" in terms of her "knowledge of football and basketball."

Toe to toe? More like foot to face. During a 2019 NBA game, Philadelphia 76er Joel Embiid leapt over King's head and narrowly missed crashing into her, according to ESPN. After that fateful game, King tweeted a prayer emoji with a note of gratitude to the athlete: "Yoooo. Thank you God and @JoelEmbiid for your athletic abilities. Crisis averted." She didn't take the hit, but an MSG Network statistician behind her did. According to ESPN, Embiid apologized to the statistician, but said of King, "It's good that I saved her life." 

King also famously tapped into her love of sports when portraying the pregnant wife of fictional rising football star Rod Tidwell, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., in 1996's Jerry Maguire, which also starred Tom Cruise and Reneé Zellweger.

Regina King got her directorial start shadowing behind the scenes on Scandal

While Regina King is best known for her stellar acting work, she's accomplished behind the scenes as well. And, unlike many other performers in the industry, King didn't expect her celebrity status alone to land her some initial directing gigs. Instead, according to a profile in Interview Magazine, she applied for and was accepted into the ABC directing program, where she shadowed behind the scenes for hit shows like Scandal and Private Practice. It was there and then that King learned the ropes and got her feet wet. She told Interview that Shonda Rhimes was a big "cheerleader," encouraging her to pursue her directorial ambitions.

King continues to amass impressive directing credits, but she admits that it took her a number of years to finally realize this dream of hers. While this delay was, in part, due to raising a child, she told Interview that anxiety played a role, too. "Also the fear that I would be regarded as a person that's only doing this because of vanity, not because it's an opportunity for me to exercise another muscle or express my creativity in another way," she said.

Regina King once saved this famous actress' life

Being Mary Jane star Gabrielle Union told Vanity Fair that Regina King once rescued her from a riptide while they were snorkeling together. "But when I say she literally saved my life that day, she literally saved my life that day. That's who she is," Union told Vanity Fair. Union also joked to the magazine that another lesser actress might have capitalized on the opportunity to get her competition out of the way. 

And Gabrielle Union is not the only actress and contemporary with kind words to say about Regina King. Scandal actress Kerry Washington told Vanity Fair that King "speaks so many of the languages of filmmaking as beautifully as the acting part." And King's If Beale Street Could Talk co-star KiKi Layne doesn't even refer to her by her first name. "When I see her, I call her Mama," she told the magazine.

Regina King started her own production company with a major mission

While Regina King's career is far from waning, the Hollywood heavy-hitter isn't satisfied with the status quo and continues to push the envelope. She and sister Reina launched their own production company, Royal Ties, and signed a deal to produce programming for Netflix, according to The Wrap.

The King sisters are on a mission greater than making movies, though. According to Marie Claire, while accepting an award at the 2019 Golden Globes, King made a big public promise that everything she and her company produces will be made up of at least half women within a couple of years. King later expressed frustration to Marie Claire that she felt immense external pressure to act on this vow almost immediately: "Not having as many of the opportunities or resources as a white man or a white woman in the industry, but now that I'm the one that's decided to say that I'm going to use what I've been given to do more, it needs to have been done yesterday?"

Regina King is diligent about her health and wellness routines

According to Viva Mag Online, after being diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, Regina King took proactive steps to prioritize her health and wellness. The site reported that, for a number of years, she tried to regulate her blood pressure with homeopathic methods and supplements, but eventually had to turn to medication to help regulate her cholesterol. We'd guess she tries to avoid all the worst foods for cholesterol, too. She told Viva Mag Online that she exercises daily to not only help stave off BP meds, but to also give herself "some sort of balance" in her day-to-day life.  

In addition to monitoring her diet and being physical, King tries to practice mindfulness, according to the publication. "It's just sitting still and breathing," she told the site, elaborating that when she's on set she'll seek out a calm place to go to just be present in the moment. "I'll find an outdoor area where other crew members are meditating or taking a nap — it's very quiet. ... When you have that many people understanding the benefits of turning your brain off even for a short time, a synergy is created in that space," King said in her interview with Viva Mag Online.

Regina King has this meaningful tattoo

While enjoying an episode of Watchmen, fans may have noticed Regina King's tattoo and wondered if it was fake or if it had significance to the show. But it turns out her arm ink is real and meaningful — but for personal reasons. 

King told Vulture that her tattoo is the Aramaic symbol for "unconditional love," and she explained that she and her son, Ian, got matching tattoos before he went off to college. She said. "His is huge, from his elbow to his wrist, but he said, 'No, you can't get that size, Mom!'" She added, "We considered different ones, but we felt this really embodies how we feel about each other."

Still, others have spotted it and have noticed that it's actually Hebrew, according to the site Kveller. A writer for the site did research of her own and discovered that the tattoo "is one of 72 three-letter combinations in the Book of Exodus that are considered to be 'names of God.'" Moreover, as noted in the Kveller article, the tattoo does, indeed, represent "unconditional love," but is actually not Aramaic as King previously claimed.

Regina King has an impressive collection of awards

Throughout her illustrious career, Regina King has been on the receiving end of acclaim and accolades. In 2019, she won her first Academy Award for best supporting actress in a motion picture for her stellar performance as Sharon Rivers, a fiercely protective mother, in If Beal Street Could Talk. She also snagged a Golden Globe for this role. 

King explained to E! why she felt such a strong connection to the role (via Good Morning America). "Well my mom, that's the woman that she is, just giving, heart so huge, holds so much love in her heart, and that's what Sharon was to me when I read her on the page, so I knew where to pull that from — from my mother and my grandmother."

Additionally, King has three Emmy awards for her work on the drama American Crime and the television mini series Seven Seconds. As noted by CNN, Regina King is one just three African American actresses to have won both an Oscar and a Primetime Emmy Award as of this writing.

Regina King became the superhero we needed in Watchmen

Regina King kicks some butt and looks amazing doing so as Sister Night in HBO's Watchmen. A grounded woman on a mission by day and a masked superhero who'll do what it takes by night, King brings heart and muscle to an incredibly versatile role.

"Reading the pilot, what struck me was this woman is kind of a reflection of all of us — meaning all humans — in the regard that we are always wearing masks in our lives," King told IndieWire. She elaborated that, like her character, all people have facades for the different parts of their everyday worlds — from their work life to their home life and everything in between. Sister Night's guise is just a little more pronounced — and her veil is literal. 

What's more, the actress loves that she gets to bring physicality to this role. "Sister waited until she was almost 50 to be a superhero," she told Marie Claire. "It's something I've always wanted to do, you know, be a woman physically kicking a**."