Comedian Chris Rock’s has starred in a number of movies and toured the world in sold-out arenas. But little did we know he was bullied as a child.
The bullying began when he was just in second grade.
“We lived in Bed-Stuy, one of the most famous ghettos in the world,” Chris says. “My mother and father wanted me to go to a better school, so I was bused to this poor, white neighborhood…I was the only black boy in my grade for most of the time. I was a little guy, too, a skinny runt.”
Chris says his bullying isn’t as uncommon as people may think.
“Put the most successful men and women in the world in one room, and ask them to put their hands up to see which ones were bullied. Most of ’em!”
In 2007, Chris went so far as to tell host James Lipton of Bravo’s Inside the Actors Studio that bullying was “the defining moment of my life … it made me who I am.” He even thanked the pack of boys who regularly “kicked my a–, spit in my face, and kicked me down the stairs,” because the experiences not only helped him to think quick on his feet, but also fueled his drive to succeed.
But Chris is the first to say all that bad has to be tempered with the good, or no good can come out of it.
“Either somebody whose dad or mom owns the place, or someone who’s put up with a lot of adversity and overcome it. But you need love, too,” Chris says. “Bullying without love? You can be destroyed. But you know, I was bullied and I had love at home, so that was kind of the perfect storm for me, you know? I just read the Steve Jobs book. There’s no way you can tell me that guy wasn’t beat up in school! And what happened? He used that pain to make sure he’d be in a position where he would never be bullied again.”
Even though he accomplished a lot in his three decade long career, Rock is proud of another thing: he learned to swim. Swimming is a part of a new fitness regimen that’s contributed to what are now countable ab muscles. “Do you know how fucking hard it is for a grown-up to learn how to swim? You’ve got to not be scared to die,” he tells the Hollywood Reporter.
“The other day, this guy says to me, ‘OK, you’re going to dive into the deep end and swim to the other side,’ and I’m like, ‘Are you fucking crazy?’ But then I dove into the deep end and I swam to the other side, and it’s a metaphor for what I’ve been trying to do during this time.”
Another regiment is his commitment to therapy. It’s seven hours a week (talk about commitment). His decision to seek meaningful help for the first time in his life was precipitated by a friend’s suggestion that he may have Asperger’s. It prompted a nine-hour battery of cognitive tests earlier this year, from which doctors diagnosed Rock with a condition called nonverbal learning disorder, or NVLD. As he’s come to understand it, he has tremendous difficulty with