Wesley sniffs concerning the worth of cash and classes behind bars

We spoke to ’90s action icon Wesley Snipes – along with Eddie Murphy in the sequel Coming 2 America – about aging with grace, the value of money, and what he’d learned from two years behind bars.

Men’s Journal: Who did your heroes grow up with?

Wesley Snipes: The cats that influenced me were people like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, James Brown, and Michael Jackson – all those actors who could dance. Gene Kelly was the man, he and Douglas Fairbanks. I remember growing up in the Bronx and watching them whenever there was a chance. I would jump around the house trying to be a tumbler.

How should a man deal with getting older?

You have to realize that things are going to slow down; Even if your mind is fast, the body, the machine, will rust. And when the machine starts to rust, the ability to generate kinetic force decreases. So the trick is to age gracefully and healthily and keep the rust off your body. If you can keep the rust off your body, getting old is no problem at all.

What human quality do you admire most?

The ability to survive.

And which quality do you regret most?

Waste your talent. It’s irresponsible.

Who has influenced your life the most?

Women have influenced my life very much. Most of my greater accomplishments have come from the advice, care, and patience of women – from my grandmother to my mother to my high school teachers – who have really helped me turn into the arts and expand my awareness.

What role should vanity play in a man’s life?

How you look and how you style and how you smell, as we say on the streets, reflects the quality of your temple. When your temple is polished and shiny, people will come, people will worship. But if your temple is ragged … no, no, no, no, no.

Which living person do you admire most?

Not a person – a personality. I admire people who have gone through the fire and come out the other side, in some cases like the phoenix, descend back and ascend from that point on. I dig these people 1,000 percent.

You spent a couple of years in prison over tax problems. What did you learn the most from it?

The value of time. I was gone for two years and a few months, and the most amazing thing was going back to what they call the world – interesting term – and finding that there were people doing exactly the same thing, in exactly the same situation. It’s almost as if time stood still for two years. Who was in jail now? Who is still in jail?

What should every man understand about money?

Money is the icing on the cake, the trophy for hard work. But the money isn’t really what it’s about. It is knowing how to create value that creates money.

Which adventure changed your life the most?

I’m going to SUNY Purchase for art school. Completely foreign territory. I was one of maybe four blacks in the whole department. That was the most life changing experience for me.

As the?

You hit me with something. They said, “You don’t know who you are. You don’t know your style. You haven’t learned enough. “That was offensive, especially from whites who had never seen the world I lived in. But they were right.
– Wesley Snipes interview with Larry Kanter

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