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The Rock Interview: Be Yourself

Learn English with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. On January 25, 2020, The Rock joined Oprah in Atlanta, Georgia. He talked about loss, gratitude, and finding your personal truth. Dwayne Johnson first rose to fame as “The Rock,” a popular wrestling personality. He then became a box-office star, appearing in films including ‘The Scorpion King,’ ‘Hercules’, and ‘The Fast and the Furious’ franchise.

The Rock Interview:


The Rock: Thank you, Oprah, for having me. Thank you, guys.

Oprah: So, your father was very strict. Now, here’s the thing. You’ve gone one on one with some fierce competitors in the ring, right? But now you were in one of the scariest situations any man can be in raising three daughters.

The Rock: Yes. Yes, extremely scary.

Oprah: And are you a strict Dad?

The Rock: I am. Not super strict, but discipline is important. But also, you know, I’ll go back to my dad. My dad loved me with a small capacity in which he was capable of. So, I learned from that and so with my daughters, I want to be as full and as present with the love that I give them.

Oprah: Present, yes. That’s what we were talking about. What do you want to make sure that they get that you didn’t get? And it’s so interesting when you have children, I’ve seen this from a lot of people who, you didn’t get what you needed. You just didn’t get what you needed because of what The Rock just said, your parents didn’t have the capacity to give it to you. And now that you’re older, you have to learn to give that to yourself and to be able to give that to your children in a way that you don’t carry on what was done to you. So, what is it you want your daughters to know about the way you love them?

The Rock: I want my daughters to know that I love them unconditionally, truly, unconditionally without condition. And I have a daughter who’s 18 years old, her name is Simone. Jasmine who just turned four, baby, Tiana, thank you who is getting ready to turn two. And I am as I told my 18-year-old daughter, Simone, I said I love you. I’m going to tell you I love you every day, I’m going to text you I love you…

Oprah: So, you’re one of those who say the words out loud?

The Rock: Yes, because I didn’t get that. And I look at you, I love you and I’m going to text you. But I also told her, I’m unattached. You don’t even have to text me back. Right? You could text me back. It’s fine. But you don’t have to, like it’s okay. It’s without condition. It’s unconditional love. And I also want to teach my daughters the value of hard work. More importantly, I want to teach my daughters the value of being kind, and how important that is.

Oprah: Well, you know, I read that your father, you used to watch him in training, and he would say, “If I’m going to get up at 6:00 AM, you’re going to get up at 6:00 AM.” So, what do you think you’ve got the most from him? Was it your work ethic? What was it?

The Rock: It was definitely my work ethic. My dad was a man who, against the odds, made it. But he would get up at usually 5:00, 5:30 in the morning, and he would say if I get up, you’re going to get up too. He would drag me to the gym and by the way, I’m five years old, and he would drag me to the gym. Yes. And I wouldn’t work out, but he would just make sure that I was there and be with him, and that was our time that we could spend together. But I would say my work ethic from my dad, my dad always said too that, regardless of what you do in life and where you go, respect is going to be given when it’s earned. And you have to go out and earn it every single day.

Oprah: Yeah. So, your dad taught you a lot. I wonder, what have your daughters taught you?

The Rock: My daughters taught me how to be I think more caring and more sensitive and more selfless.

Oprah: Yeah. Were you there for all of them when they were born?

The Rock: I was right there.

Oprah: Right there?

The Rock: I mean, right there. Yes.

Oprah: I mean, you were right there.

The Rock: I was right there. Yes. And bring it on. I mean, this is our moment. Yes.

Oprah: Yeah. Yeah. And is that a life-changing moment, when that happens for you?

The Rock: It’s the greatest thing that I have ever experienced in my life. And it gave me such a profound respect for my babies’ mamas. I have two. I was once married and now I’m happily married. Lauren is back there. We’ve known each other for 13 years now but I have, it has been the most profound experience of my life because also too, you know, when you meet… As a man, you meet someone, you meet a woman, and this is going to be the one and you want to get married and my first marriage didn’t work out. But then the birth of a child and what that does and the lens perspective that just shifts and it just gives me a new profound respect for again, their moms as…

Oprah: So, it didn’t work out with the marriage, but then she became your business partner, your first marriage?

The Rock: She did. Yes, yes.

Oprah: And you still are.

The Rock: We still are. So, my ex-wife, Dany, we, the marriage didn’t work out. And it was just one of those things where it wasn’t an ugly divorce, it was just marriage wasn’t in our cards. We’re great friends. Marriage wasn’t in our cards, but we both had an appetite for business and to accomplish things. And we thought, “Well, what if we continued to do business together and do you think we can?” And it felt like we could make something happen and we did.

Oprah: I know you didn’t grow up with a lot of money. And I read the story about when, I think you were 15, and there was an eviction notice on the door and how that made a big impression on you, right?

The Rock: It did. Yes.

Oprah: Now, you’re one of the highest-paid actors in the world.

The Rock: Thank you. I do all right. Thank you.

Oprah: You do all right. And does that title, the sexiest man alive, the highest paid in the… What do those titles mean if anything? You’re the greatest, you’re the most popular, you’re the most followed, you’re the most, you’re the most, the most, the most, the most.

The Rock: It’s great for the ego. It’s wonderful.

Oprah: Yeah, the better question is, how do you keep your ego in check when all of that is happening around?

The Rock: Sure. Very important. People I have around me and how important that is…

Oprah: Do you have anybody who can tell you the truth at this point?

The Rock: Yeah, she’s called my wife. Yes.

Oprah: Okay. Lauren can tell you the truth?

The Rock: Yes, Lauren can tell me the truth. But by the way, and this is where it’s the tricky thing for us to being in this position, is we want to make sure that we have people around us who are inspired to do well and reach for and continue to share our vision, but also at time say, well, I’m not quite sure if that’s the right thing to do. So, look, I’ve had a wonderful career, especially coming from being evicted. And those titles are nice, and everything is fine. But honestly, I’m so grateful to be in the position I’m in and I never take anything for granted. I try not to…

Oprah: Aren’t you glad that you were once evicted, because it gives you such an appreciation for what you have now?

The Rock: It just gives such perspective. When we were 14 years old, we lived in Hawaii and we lived in a small efficiency apartment. And we were, my mom and I came home, and I’ll never forget the rent was $180 a week. And there was an eviction…

Oprah: A week?

The Rock: A week. And that was an eviction notice on the door. And it was, this was the one, it was the final eviction notice, like, that’s the one. My mom started crying, and I never forgot in that moment, it was a seminal moment for me because I felt like I never want to be in this position again. What can I do? So, at 14 years old, I thought, well, the heroes in my life, Muhammad Ali, for example, professional wrestlers, they’re all men who have worked hard with their hands and they built their body. Yes, that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna do what my dad taught me and these other heroes, I’m gonna go build my body so, we’re never evicted again, but being evicted, by the way, has as you were saying has not only given me just great perspective, but also great gratitude, but also my team and my family, we laugh at it, but I feel this way like, “Oh, well, you know, we’re a month away from being evicted. I gotta go to work.” Like, I still have that in my head.

Oprah: You still have that?

The Rock: I still have that in my head, you know, but it keeps you grounded by the way. Yeah, because that’s why the most this and the most that again, it’s wonderful. But the alternative is what I once was.

Oprah: And it also doesn’t change the way you’re wired because I still save toast. I do. I will save a toast rather than throw it away. And I know there’s going to be more toast, but I still do because there’s something in me because when we were growing up, we had to save it. You know, you weren’t allowed to like throw food away. So, that was a really big deal. So, here’s the deal. You have now the… you get the biggest paychecks, you have all this money, acclaim, fame, you didn’t have that growing up. How do you raise children who have good sense, and are also kind when they have everything? Because part of what made you who you are, is having had that eviction notice and having not had everything. So, how do you do that, how are you planning to do that with your children?

The Rock: So, for example, with our 18-year-old daughter, it was really important that we share those stories, share the stories about being evicted. Her mom’s parents were immigrants who came over from Cuba. It’s important that we’ve always shared those stories and also, we live, we try and keep it as simple as we possibly can. I live, we have a farm in Virginia, happily to say that I’ve moved my family here to Atlanta, so…

Oprah: Yaay!

The Rock: Place 30, 45 minutes away where it’s very quiet, but also just making sure that we continue to instill in the babies and the kids the value of $1 and what it means and the value of food and always saying how grateful we are and the things that we’re grateful for, especially at that young age.

Oprah: So, I want to know, how is success different from the way you imagined it would be?

The Rock: I never imagined this. I, at one time when I was a kid, I did feel in my heart and in my gut, that I was… that I thought, I think the world’s going to hear from me. I don’t know how, but I do feel that way. But I never thought in my mind, it was this level of success or fame even. It was, I don’t know how but the world is going to hear from me. So, you know, which is maybe why you know, at times, I could walk around and I could look at things like I’m a big kid, like everything can at times can be like I’m in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, where I’m just really in awe of everything that’s really happening around me.

Oprah: What’s the first thing you splurged on when you realize you had enough to splurge?

The Rock: Okay. So, all right. The first thing I splurged on, so when I was a kid, 14 years old, 13, 14 years old, in my mind, what it meant to be successful, it was a Rolex watch, right. So, there was such a valuable lesson out of this. So, I thought for years oh, wait, everyone, every successful man has a Rolex watch and has diamonds in it. So, when I finally was making a little bit of money, and this was in 1999, and I thought, okay, and by the way, I was still living in an apartment paying monthly rent but again.

Oprah: Oh, you renting and buying a Rolex?

The Rock: I was just renting, horrible financial…

Oprah: You should definitely if you’re buying a Rolex, okay.

The Rock: Yes. This is what not to do. So, I thought, this is it. I’m gonna splurge and I went, and I got myself a Rolex. And I wore it at that time I was wrestling. I was in the ring, not for a match, but I was doing an interview in the ring. And I wore it in the ring and a melee broke out, which always happens in the wild world of professional wrestling. One of the wrestlers fell on the Rolex when it came off, it broke, live TV and you see me, “Oh my gosh, my Rolex.” And I’m supposed to be in the moment and wrestling these other guys. “Oh, no. My Rolex.” Like, you can see the tape I’m trying to get my Rolex and somebody’s like kicking me in the ribs while I’m trying to get it. So, I finally got my Rolex back. I go backstage, I look at it, I’m heartbroken now. This is my thing. And I go home that night and I remember immediately thinking this is a sign. And I…

Oprah: Oh, I believe in signs, you know.

The Rock: Yes, it’s a sign and I don’t need it. And it wasn’t right for me at that time, and I never got anything like that again.

Oprah: And so now do you just, do splurge carefully?

The Rock: I do. I’m not a big bling guy or anything like that. And I always want to just make sure that now the splurge is usually with property. Like we have two properties that way, because…

Oprah: I believe in real estate.

The Rock: Yes, Yes, you do. Yes.

Oprah: I do, I Yes. I love property the way some women love shoes, you know? I do. I do. Because God isn’t making any more land. Okay.

The Rock: That’s right.

Oprah: This is what we got here on the planet Earth. You’re not getting any more.

The Rock: Yeah, that’s right. And also, the properties are our anchor. It’s where we could be comfortable. And so that and I have a few pickup trucks. That’s it.

Oprah: Just a few. So, I remember reading this, that it was like WrestleMania 13 and you’re still being called Rocky. And there were a bunch of fans at the time who were jeering you and they were saying unkind things. And you used that moment and literally turned on your heels and turned it around. And you know, this whole vision tour is about people who’ve been knocked down sometimes in life, everybody, you know, not in a ring, but have had those moments where you didn’t feel like the rest of the world saw you for who you needed to be. How were you able to turn that around?

The Rock: Okay. So, thank you for bringing that up. So, this is, it was a turning point in my career, and it really allowed me to grow. And it really allowed me just to be me and be anchored in with who I am. So, when I first started wrestling, the idea was, well, why don’t you call yourself Rocky Maivia out of respect for your dad, Rocky Johnson, and your grandfather, Peter Maivia. I hated the name. And I thought well, I just wanted to make my own way. And I wanted to be independent. I love my family, but I don’t want to do it like that because it feels like I’m trying to leverage their fame. The powers that be said, “No, that’s your name.” I was also told, well, when you go out and you wrestle, you have to smile. I want you to smile big. This is in the WWE.

Oprah: Why are you smiling if you…

The Rock: Because the idea was, I was a rookie in the wrestling business. I was a, what’s called the wrestling business as a term called babyface, which is a good guy. I was being groomed as a good guy, wrestler, young. The idea was you’re grateful, grateful for the opportunity so when you go out there, I want you to smile. You can’t smile enough. And I thought, “Well, what if I lose? Nope. Yes, exactly. You still gotta smile and it just didn’t feel right. That didn’t sit right with me. So, a few months later, the company made me the Intercontinental Champion. And then a month later we go into the annual biggest event. It’s like the SuperBowl of wrestling, WrestleMania and it was WrestleMania 13. By the time I got to Chicago WrestleMania, 16,000 people in the middle of the ring when I was in the ring and I’m supposed to be a good guy and they’re supposed to cheer me; 16,000 people were chanting, “Rocky sucks”. Thank you for laughing, the few of you. But it was…

Oprah: Can you hear the word sucks clearly when you’re on the mat Rocky sucks?

The Rock: Yes.

Oprah: Yeah, Rocky sucks.

The Rock:  There’s a reverb that happens in the arena. And when in unison, not one person, “You suck.” 16,000. And I was, I remember laying there in the ring and the referee said to me, “Don’t look to them” And it was crippling for me. So, then, at that time, the powers that be thought, this isn’t going to work. And for whatever reason, people are not liking you, and they’re not connecting with you. And so, in that moment, it was very defining because I asked them if I could just be myself and if I could go out there, and if I can speak to the crowd, and if I could just be myself and be authentic. And if I don’t want to smile, I don’t smile. If I want to laugh, I laugh. If I want to sing, I sing whatever it is, I just want to be me. Can I have that for one minute of live TV time? The powers that be at that time, Vince McMahon said, “You got it.” So, on Raw live TV, I grabbed a microphone and I said, “I may be a lot of things but sucks isn’t one of them.” And I said something to the effect of basically it’s not a this thing, it’s not a that thing, it’s a me being myself thing. And before you know it, I guess the moral of the story is the importance and the power of finding your identity and being true to who you are. Even in that wild world of pro wrestling, it still applies to everyone in the room, and how powerful that could be because there was a true shift and click moment. And I never looked back and I became, fortunately, the biggest draw that the business has ever seen.

Oprah: Wow. You know, I was talking earlier about intention, and you have acquired and continue to acquire a lot as you’re continuing to build Seven Bucks. What is the purest, highest, truest intention behind it all? Because I know, at the end of the day, it isn’t all about fame and it isn’t all about making money. So, the reason why you want to continue to grow and succeed is what?

The Rock: To create an amazing experience for people. And that’s important to me because that’s an opportunity that I have to give joy and help, whether it transforms or a movie or a thing or whatever it is like the audience’s experience, audience experience is something that’s deeply personal to me. And I think that goes back to when I would, so before the bright lights of the WWE, I was wrestling in a small wrestling company. I would wrestle in flea markets and use car dealerships. You put a ring in the used car dealership in the parking lot, but the reason why I bring that up and state fairs, but there was an intimacy there and even at that level, it was always about well, how can I send the audience home happy and make people feel good? And by the way, I also feel like if you’re in a position to make people feel good, that is such a powerful thing. It’s such a powerful.

Oprah: Yeah. I know we did you for a masterclass for OWN and something you said really stuck with me, that the most powerful thing you can ever do is to be yourself.

The Rock: Be yourself. Yes.

Oprah: And you were talking about that earlier, about that moment that you learned to be authentic is when everything changed.

The Rock: That’s when everything changed. It’s like a shift and click moment when we, for me when I realize there’s great power and being myself, same thing for all of us. But I do. I believe it’s the most powerful thing that we could be. It’s easier said than done because I struggled for a long time trying to figure out well, what’s my identity? And who am I? And, for example, when I got to Hollywood, the very first time I got to Hollywood in the early 2000s, I was told, again, well, if you want to be a star, then maybe you shouldn’t talk about wrestling, maybe you shouldn’t go to the gym as much, maybe you shouldn’t raise your silly eyebrow. And you know, there was a lot of things like that, and when you don’t know you buy into it. And so, I thought, okay, well maybe… So, don’t call yourself The Rock. Okay. So, again, I went through that in process for years trying to figure out who I was. And then when you look back at my earlier career, the films I was doing, they were good, but just not, you know, like “Oh, that’s how I like to see him because he is his true authentic self.”

Oprah: And have you had a sweet revenge moment?

The Rock: Yeah, who sucks now, huh? Yeah.

Oprah: One of those.

The Rock: One of those. Yes, it was… Okay. So, at this time when I felt like okay, I really need to make a change in my career, I need to be me, and I want to have the kind of career that is a global career. And I said, I am not quite sure how we’re going to do it. But I need you to buy into the vision with me and I’m willing to put in the work with my own two hands as I was telling my agency at that time in Hollywood. And they all looked at me like I had three heads and they thought, well, we just don’t… They’ve thought, okay, sure, sure, sure, sure, kind of placating me. And then eventually I’d left them and then decided, you know what? My name is The Rock and I come from the world of professional wrestling. And I look the way I look. And I talk the way I talk, and I love to work out. And you know what, this is who I’m going to be. And then here I am today. So, for those who said, we don’t get it, kind of sweet revenge.

Oprah: So, you posted on Instagram in November, “Joy and hope cost nothing” remember this?


The Rock: Yes.

Oprah: And yet, it’s the most powerful gift that we can all give. And that’s the real magic to life. So, after everything that you’ve been through, particularly this past week, what are you now most grateful for today?

The Rock: I’m most grateful for life. I’m most grateful for an opportunity, I’m most grateful for my family. I’m most… Gratitude is a big thing with me. I mean, it is truly my anchor. Yes…

Oprah: Mine too.

The Rock: It’s my anchor, and I wake up with a heart full of gratitude, and even in death and even when things don’t go right and even though I didn’t make it to the NFL me, making it to the NFL was the best thing that never happened. Yes. Because it also gave me a great sense of gratitude to be here. So, I would say that it would be… And also, I want to tell you, and I’ll tell you this Oprah, and I want to tell you guys like I was so excited to come here and do this with you and share a little bit of my story and background and any kind of wisdom that I have learned over the years to share with you guys. But I want you to know that especially this week of just, you know, laying my dad to rest I needed this from you, and I thank you, truly. Thank you.

Oprah: Thank you. Thank you.

The Rock: Thank you. Thank you so much. I did. I love you back, I truly do.

Oprah: That’s a good mana y’all just gave. It’s a good mana.

The Rock: Thank you. I did. I needed this and I needed this. I needed the love and this mana because what I also realized is and I felt it coming in is that you know you go to Rock concerts and things and events and wrestling matches or whatever. But you know, when you come to this room and you have thousands, 12, 13, 15,000 people who have one intention which is to be better and give so much love and receive so much love, it’s a powerful thing.

Oprah: Yeah, it is a very powerful thing. Thank you for being here today to share it.

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