A few years after having an affair with Diahann Carroll, Sidney Poitier’s first marriage came to an end. Before he met Joanna Shimkus, with whom he now shares two children, he didn’t imagine he would get married again.
Sidney Poitier had a vibrant Hollywood career, appearing in movies like “The Lilies of the Field” and “A Raisin in the Sun,” which helped him win an Oscar. Unfortunately, his previous love affairs weren’t as fruitful. In 1950, the actor married the model Juanita Hardy at a young age.
She and Poitier had four daughters together: Gina, Sherri, Pamela, and Beverly. She is credited as the founding member of Tiger Management Consulting Group. But because of the difficulties in their marriage, which lasted for only 15 years, they divorced in 1965.
The “Defiant Ones” actor had an affair with fellow actress Diahann Carroll while they were married after falling in love. The two played the lead roles in the 1959 film “Porgy and Bess,” when Carroll won Poitier over. He stated:
She had stunning cheekbones, white teeth, and enigmatic, dark eyes. She moved with a rhythm that utterly tantalized me and was assured, inviting, and sensual.
They both had husbands, so throughout supper they discussed them. Carroll treated Poitier as nothing more than a gentleman for weeks before they started to fall for one another. As he got to know her, he recognized that she was among the smartest women he had ever met.
Despite the fact that their relationship was developing, Carroll resisted getting close since she knew what it would imply in the long run. Carroll was prepared to make the commitment, but Poitier was unable to abandon his family.
The couple decided to keep their daughter’s arrival a secret and dodged questions about it.
Hardy was aware of his love for a different woman, though. Poitier arrived home one day to find his wife preparing breakfast before their children woke up and admitted his true feelings for Carroll. When Hardy in amazement heard those agonizing words, her entire world fell apart.
Hardy could not help but blame the actress, despite her husband’s claims to the contrary. The couple did little to stop the steady disintegration of their marriage.
Despite his love for Carroll, Poitier was reluctant to leave his family. He had to decide, but he was aware that he couldn’t. At the time, he believed:
Why couldn’t she show genuine interest in my work so that I could have someone with whom to share all of my never-ending concerns in an educated manner?
It took Poitier six years to divorce his wife. He remarked, “I felt trapped by my four girls. My father fully brainwashed me as a child that a parent should take care of his children, even if it means not putting food in his own mouth. They were little, and I loved them.
Hardy eventually asked her spouse to leave and then requested a divorce. On the other hand, he made an effort to avoid the cost of divorce. His romance with Carroll grew stale in 1967, and the two started dating different individuals. Being apart became preferable to being together as their relationship got poisonous.
As he avoided talking about his divorce, his relationship with his children also became strained. The threat to their own security, he claimed, “I think there was a period when they were upset as hell at me.”
Poitier didn’t intend to be married again after his divorce and instead had a number of indiscretions, but everything changed when Joanna Shimkus entered his life. While working on “The Lost Man,” Poitier got to know Shimkus. The two spent a lot of time discussing their script over long dinners as they worked on the project together.
Shimkus got fond of his intensity and depth, while he admired her unadorned refinement, and they started to connect on a deeper level without even realizing it. However, the actress and John Heyman, who was at the time married, were still involved in a troubled relationship.
Poitier was familiar with Shimkus’ predicament because he had gone through it. He advised them to split up so they could process their emotions. When Shimkus called on Christmas Day, their relationship had resumed after Poitier spent some time on his own and had several brief romantic connections with women.
She accepted Poitier’s invitation to join him on a Caribbean getaway, and while they were in Puerto Rico, they cherished every minute of each other’s company. They traveled to an undeveloped island where they enjoyed swimming, snorkeling, and walking along the shore.
After that, they visited Grenada, Barbados, Antigua, and Saint Vincent. Holding Shimkus’ hand as they traveled home, Poitier came to the conclusion that this was the life he desired. However, at the time, their inter-racial love had repercussions.
It was a problem in both groups when a black man and a white lady started dating at that time, but none of it mattered. Poitier recalled, “I was with a woman for the first time in my life whose presence appeared to calm the turbulence in me rather than challenge it to combat.”
She gave him the security that Hardy had once given him and the glamour that Carroll had once endear him to. Poitier, on the other hand, was sophisticated and multifaceted but kept her grounded.
Anika, the couple’s first child, was born in 1972. The couple decided to keep their daughter’s arrival a secret and dodged questions about it. Instead, they stayed under the radar in Hollywood.
Two years later, there were reports that they were going to wed. According to one source, Poitier would only wed Shimkus if she had a son. Shimkus was described as having cold feet by one person but, in actuality, she was quite the traditional woman.
Poitier wed Shimkus in his Beverly Hills residence on January 23, 1976. Harry Belafonte served as the best man, with Julie Belafonte serving as the matron of honor. Shimkus thought they were “simply destined to be together,” despite the problems that still surrounded them.
Poitier had a distinguished career by the time he was 49. Furthermore, he was supported by a stunning and wise wife. “There is one crucial aspect my wife has enabled me to recognize over the years, and that is the significance of articulating love for one another on a daily basis,” Poitier stated.
Sydney, a subsequent daughter, followed in her father’s footsteps and became an actress. Sydney made appearances on shows like “Hawaii Five-0,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Chicago P.D.,” and “Carter” after graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
It’s true that Poitier’s parenting style was not forgiving. I’m a touch rough on the kids sometimes, my wife would say,” he admitted. “My kids respect my morals, and I see a few of those same morals in them. That makes me happy because my values don’t limit me.