Twenty years ago, Dwayne Johnson was racing at full throttle in a squared circle, headed toward becoming one of the top superstars in World Wrestling Entertainment—then known as the World Wrestling Federation. At the time, he was known as The Rock, the self-proclaimed “People’s Champion.” Even then, many saw a performer who would transcend the world of professional wrestling and become a pop culture icon.
Since that time, Johnson has conquered the motion picture industry with a lifetime box office gross of over $3.4 billion—thanks to his roles in juggernauts like Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle and the Fast & Furious franchise. He’s been the voice of a Polynesian God in the Academy Award-nominated animated film Moana. He stars in HBO’s highest-rated 30-minute drama, Ballers. He commands Under Armour’s highest-selling athletic product line, Project Rock. He has made social media his playground, remaining in constant contact with his loyal fan base. And now, MTV has honored him with their Icon Generation Award.
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“I thank you, all of you at home. You are the reason I’m getting this,” Johnson told a packed room, surrounded by dancers representing his black and Samoan background. “I want to share a really quick lesson with you guys, I’ve learned the most powerful thing we can be is ourselves.” Johnson continued on:
“We are still that little kid just aspiring to be something better, aspiring to be important. When I first got to Hollywood, Hollywood they didn’t know what the hell to do with me. I mean I was half black, half Samoan, six-foot-four, 275-pound pro wrestler. I was told at that time you’ve got to be a certain way, you’ve got to drop some weight, you’ve got to be somebody different, you’ve got to stop working out, stop doing the things that I love, you’ve got to stop calling yourself ‘The Rock.’ For years I bought into it because you think, ‘Oh, that’s what I’m supposed to do’ and I was miserable doing that. I made a choice that I wasn’t going to conform to Hollywood, Hollywood was going to conform to me.”
In closing, Johnson left the audience with a quote that he lives by. “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” It is apparent that even outside the ring, Johnson strives to be the people’s champion… if ya smell what The Rock is cookin’.
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