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The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Dwayne Johnson
By DEBRA KELLY
History - Science
Content Warning
This story contains discussions of suicide and depression.
Tough Childhood
Growing up, Johnson never knew anything approaching financial security — in fact, he had lived in 13 different states by the time he was 13, forcing him to make friends quickly. He once described his father Rocky Johnson, who was on the road a lot, as “Tough. Tough, tough, tough, tough."
Early Losses
With his own father mostly absent, Johnson had to face the loss of two surrogate father figures when he was very young. One was his grandfather, Peter “High Chief” Maivia, who died of cancer when Johnson was 10; another was Andre the Giant, who died in 1993 from the same acromegaly that gave him his famous size.
Combating Helplessness
Johnson started working out at age 14, after he and his family had gotten evicted from their apartment in Hawai’i. "I reeeeaaaaalllyy hated that feeling of helplessness,” he later wrote. “So, I did the only thing I could control with my own two hands in hopes that one day my family would never have to worry about being evicted again — I trained."
His Mother’s Suicide Attempt
When Johnson was 15, he became witness to his mother’s attempted suicide. The terrifying episode contributed to his own battle with depression, but it also helped define him and the way he connects to people — he now personally reaches out to fans who share their own struggles with him.
Gang Activity
When he was 14, Johnson had already become part of a criminal gang, and by the time he was 17, he had been arrested around nine times in connection with his gang activity. He was living in Hawai’i at the time, and he helped target affluent tourists who had money to spend on high-end merchandise.