The Untold Truth Of Donald Glover

The super talented Donald Glover has seemingly dominated every form of entertainment that exists. In the TV industry, he's written for 30 Rock and starred in Community and Atlanta. In music, he's released multiple albums under the stage name Childish Gambino — including hits "Redbone" and "This Is America." He's performed in the viral sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy and led a successful standup comedy career. This included his own Netflix special, called Weirdo, via IMDb. And in the movie industry, he's appeared as a young Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story and as the voice of Simba in the 2019 live action Lion King remake. Ryan Coogler, the director of Black Panther and Creed, who is also a close friend of Glover, described the multi-talented entertainer to The New Yorker. "He can push the envelope in all these different areas," the director said. "And it's not that difficult for him."

Glover earned his big break in the entertainment industry at a young age. But his early days in life were anything but easy. Especially his atypical and often shocking upbringing. Fortunately for fans, Glover continues to surprise and push the envelope of what one person is capable of creating.

What's your favorite piece of work by the performer? And what would you like to see him try next? It's time to "stay woke" and learn about the untold truth of Donald Glover.

Donald Glover's religious youth

Given some of Donald Glover's explicit works and lyrics later in life, it's surprising to learn that he grew up in a religious household. Reflecting on his childhood, Glover told The Daily Beast, "Being a Jehovah's Witness was interesting. I think it amplified my own alienness." He went on to say he felt like "the odd one out" at school, noting that "Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate Christmas, you don't say the Pledge of Allegiance." Glover recalled his classmates being confused by various elements of the religion, such as members of the church going door-to-door. Growing up in a predominantly Southern Baptist area, Glover said his religious group "felt small and almost cult-like in Atlanta."

Thinking back on his experience as a Jehovah's Witness, he said, "I believe it made me see the world differently." According to the entertainer, the religion helped him question good and evil in the world. "My creative outlet was definitely shaped by being a Jehovah's Witness," he shared.

A dream came true for Star Wars fan Donald Glover

With his strict upbringing as a Jehovah's Witness, Donald Glover didn't have access to many of the same entertainment as his peers. But one exception for the young boy was Star Wars. Glover recalled to Esquire that he and his father went to see the movie prequels during Glover's school hours. He remembered "biting the lightsaber off his Darth Vader action figure when he was a kid, but recalls his blue-caped Lando Calrissian figurine even more intensely." This figurine turned out to be one of Glover's favorites. "I had a doll that I slept with — the only Black doll in the store — that my mom bought for me. And my dad bought me Lando," Glover remembered to the magazine.

Many years later, after Glover became a successful entertainer, he heard about a new Star Wars film. According to rumors, the project would feature the Lando character, so Glover jumped on the opportunity. "I wanna be Lando," he recounted telling his manager (via Esquire). The actor credits his passion with securing the role "because I was ready." Regarding Glover, the movie's director, Ron Howard, told Esquire, "I loved his take on Lando and his passion for the character." He described Glover's take on the character as charming, humorous, and intelligent. "You'd be a fool not to engage him creatively," Howard added. Even the original actor approved of Glover's take on the character.

Donald Glover 'never thought about leaving' Community

Donald Glover left his valuable spot as a writer on 30 Rock and moved to Los Angeles to give acting a try. He auditioned for Community and the character Troy. According to Village Voice, the role "was actually written for a white guy, but [Glover] made it his own. Troy was also originally supposed to be paired up on the show with Chevy Chase's character, Pierce." Glover stayed on as the aloof and goofy jock for five seasons. The show, which premiered in 2009, became a cult favorite, in part thanks to Glover's comedic gift.

Glover exited the show before it ended but is grateful for his time on set. "Community is always going to be a big part of my heart," he said to The Daily Beast. He also compared filming and working on the series to "dancing in our living room with friends and no one was watching." He added, "I never thought about leaving."

Fellow Community alum Alison Brie revealed an embarrassing story from her time on the series. On The Late Late Show with James Corden, the actor told the host about a party with the cast that Glover hosted. She tried to impress people after drinking a little bit by throwing herself backwards. But she ran into a lamp and "possibly" broke the lamp. "I don't really remember going to many of Donald's parties after that," she joked. 

How Donald Glover's series Atlanta came to be

After his work on Community, Donald Glover was known in Hollywood mainly for his comedic acting. But he had other big plans to create his own show. Glover started to pitch the idea around, and as his manager told The Hollywood Reporterits "existential and dark" themes caught many off guard. After FX acquired the series Atlanta, THR noted that Glover "hired an entirely Black writing staff, many of whom had never made a frame of television before." He continued to shake things up from industry norms and used his personal home as the main office for the series. And he hired relatively unknown actors and directors. As the outlet put it, "Glover's goal was less to prove that his way was better than it was to prove that there was another way."

Glover told Esquire in an interview that producing the show on his terms was the most important, even if that scared away multiple networks. "I just focused on making it more and more personal," he said. Critics praised the series and Glover was a big winner at the 2017 Emmys: He took home one statue for his work as a director and another for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. In his acceptance speech, he was practically speechless before letting out, "I'm so happy. Wow!"

Donald Glover's mighty pen got his foot in the door

Donald Glover's idea of comedic television as a kid came from The Muppets. He joked to Rolling Stone in 2011 that his mom permitted him to watch the show "made by hippies on drugs." But she wouldn't let him watch The Simpsons, despite being "written by Harvard graduates." Even more surprising, Rolling Stone noted that Glover's high school classmates named him "Most Likely to Write for The Simpsons." He didn't end up writing for the animated series, but his Derrick Comedy work did gain the attention of famous comedian Tina Fey. The Saturday Night Live star brought Glover on the 30 Rock staff when he was still a relatively green writer. Of his time as a member of the team, Glover told Entertainment Weekly, "Tina [Fey] taught me how to write, but also about the politics of television." He also credited the 30 Rock team for "knowing how dynasties are run."

Even with the big break, Glover couldn't help but notice he stuck out in the writer's room. As Glover recalled to The New Yorker, "I wondered, Am I being hired just because I'm Black?" Fey admitted to the outlet that Glover's instincts were partly true. According to the outlet, she said "she admired Glover's talent but hired him because funds from NBC's Diversity Initiative 'made him free.'"

A star-studded college counts Donald Glover as an alum

As Donald Glover recalled to The Hollywood Reporter, he didn't have the same opportunities as some of his classmates growing up, but he "never saw the roadblocks." After high school, he went to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. As the program's website notes, the school's list of famous alumni includes Lady Gaga, Alec Baldwin, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Glover arrived at school with a rather wholesome background; the Village Voice wrote he was "a virgin who had never tasted alcohol." When he tried his first adult beverage about a year later, the outlet said, "He sat in the corner of a room full of people, his hoodie pulled over his head, debating the whole night whether to take a swig or not. When he finally did, he thought for sure he might die."

According to the Village Voice, Glover said he "lost his virginity" to one of the residential assistants in his dorm his junior year. He remembered the woman saying the physical encounter "was just fun. It doesn't mean anything." Glover recalled thinking, "Oh, OK" when he realized he didn't "have to marry this girl."

As a child, Donald Glover wanted to 'save the world'

As noted by Blues and Soul, Donald Glover was born in 1983 on Edwards Air Force Base in the desert outside of Los Angeles. He and his parents soon relocated to Stone Mountain, Georgia, where Glover spent his childhood. In an interview for Esquire, Glover talked about his difficult upbringing. "If people saw how I grew up, they would be triggered," the actor said, noting that there were "Confederate flags everywhere." He also recalled that some parents of his white friends "were very sweet to me but were also like, 'Don't ever date him.'"

Glover lived with his mother, father, sister, brother Stephen, "two adopted siblings and a rotating cast of foster kids," according to The Hollywood Reporter. "I saw kids dying of AIDS in our house," Glover shared with the outlet. "I saw people getting stabbed. I saw drug dealers stealing people's address books so they could get to my house because people [there] owed them money." But even with all these difficulties surrounding Glover, the young boy dreamed of a brighter future. According to Esquire, he wrote himself a letter at age 11 that said, "I'm gonna try and I'm gonna save the world."

Finding the funny called to Donald Glover

While attending New York University, Donald Glover decided to join a school sketch comedy group called Hammerkatz. There, he met D.C. Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, Dan Eckman, and Meggie McFadden. The five members broke off on their own and started to create content: Eckman took over directing, McFadden producing, and the remaining three the star actors. All started to record comedy sketches and uploaded them in the early days of YouTube, and McFadden explained to Mel Magazine that the team worked because of their close personal relationship. "We literally hung out all the time," she recalled to the outlet. "When we weren't making sketches, we were playing Street Fighter or Mario Kart. I have nostalgia for the way we were creating those sketches. Us just hanging out at 3 a.m. and having a weird idea." The YouTube videos were a hit and the crew went on to self-promote and create the indie film Mystery Team. As Mel Magazine noted, the movie premiered "at Sundance on January 17, 2009, and netted about $90,000 in total."

The year before the film was released, Glover tried out for the most famous sketch comedy platform, Saturday Night Live. According to the Village Voice, he "auditioned to play Obama as a cast member" but sadly "didn't get the part." This didn't stop Glover, who decided to attempt stand-up comedy. As the Village Voice noted, he asked for advice from two very famous comedians: 30 Rock colleague Tracy Morgan and Chris Rock.

Donald Glover works with a family member

Not only does Donald Glover get to write and star on the successful series Atlanta — he also gets to work alongside his sibling. The actor brought on his brother, Stephen Glover, to help write for the series, and it's not just a ceremonious role. Stephen is the "only credited writer on four of 10 episodes" in the first season of the show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In fact, Stephen and Donald were both nominated for the same Emmy award for writing. Both men lost out on the Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series award in 2017 to Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari for their work on Master of None. This also transitioned into the opportunity for both men to work on a Deadpool series together. "[Our lawyer] was like, 'No one does that. No one goes from staff writer to creator in a year,'" Donald said in The Hollywood Reporter.

Describing their childhood to The Hollywood Reporter, Stephen remembered that he and his brother listened to "bootleg audio of Simpsons episodes, their primary source of amusement was their own imagination." The two young boys created their own "fake TV shows and commercials, or fake movie trailers where Donald would also do all of the sound effects." And as adults, Donald confessed, "I'm definitely more intense" than his brother who is "quicker to laugh."

Donald Glover's changed his approach to dating

Earlier in his career, Donald Glover admitted to having little free time. His creative output showed no signs of slowing down and he was constantly working on new projects. Plus, exploring the limits of his reach in the entertainment industry. In 2011, he said in the Village Voice, "Right now, I refuse to even have a dog. No girlfriend. I don't want anything tying me down." Glover explained that he wanted to have it all, with no compromises. "I want to be everywhere. I don't see a limit for me. I want to do everything," he added. 

As Billboard noted in a recap of Glover's performance as Childish Gambino at the Governors Ball music festival in 2017, at one point, the multihyphenate said, "This song is dedicated to everybody in this crowd and my young son, Legend," revealing the name of his child for the first time. This was Glover's first of three children with longtime girlfriend Michelle White. 

Perhaps the wildest moment for this dad was the birth of number three. Glover revealed in an interview for GQ that he had his newest son "during the coronavirus." He also remembered the birth was about an hour before the first time he saw the video of George Floyd's death. Glover called it "such an intense, weird moment" because of the tragedy he watched right after an "amazing, joyful, expanding moment." The star named the child after his father who sadly died in 2018.

What does Childish Gambino mean?

The future award-winning rapper's "first taste of rap," according to the Village Voice, was Fred Durst, the white rock-rapper who was a star as the frontman of Limp Bizkit in the late '90s and early aughts. "They say there's no place in hip-hop if you're in the suburbs," Glover told the outlet. He added another example: "Kanye is a suburban kid. The struggle is finding your place." 

Glover started to find his place at college. As the Village Voice noted, he spent his first year at NYU "mixing beats" until graduating to writing lyrics and rapping over his beats "with rhymes about girls and love." At the time, the rap collective Wu-Tang Clan, inspired a "name-generator" website. While searching for a stage name, Glover used the site and liked one of the results: "Childish Gambino." 

Glover's first commercially released album, Camp in 2011, received some negative results from critics. According to Pitchfork, the album featured "heavy topics like race, masculinity, relationships, street cred, and 'real hip-hop' as props to construct a false outsider persona." The singer changed his approach and for his 2016 album Awaken, My Love! Glover earned critical praise and five Grammy nominations. According to Esquire, "the album cemented Gambino as a radio star and put him on the big screen." His "George Clinton–inspired funk jam" called "Redbone" featured "over the opening credits of 2017's Get Out and went triple platinum."

How much is Donald Glover worth?

Donald Glover's success across multiple forms of entertainment — from the screen to your headphones — is a testament to his gifted mind. But it also means multiple revenue streams to continually grow his bank account. He reached the highest peak possible for a song — top of the Billboard Hot 100, with his single "This Is America" in 2018. This on top of his many writing and acting credits on the big and small screens. As of 2021, Donald Glover is worth an estimated $35 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

He uses part of this money on real estate. As The New Yorker noted in 2018, Glover had "a house in Atlanta and a studio in Los Angeles, and often rents a place in Kauai." This might sound glamorous, but the outlet went on to say the celebrity "sleeps on a couch at the studio" when he's in Los Angeles and "drove to Target to buy a blanket to make it cozier."

Glover also used part of his net worth for altruistic reasons. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the host surprised Glover with a special guest — a little girl who went viral by rapping about Girl Scout Cookies to the tune of Childish Gambino's hit song "Redbone." When the young girl asked if Glover wanted to buy Girl Scout Cookies, he said, "I'll take them all" to help her reach her sales goal of 113 boxes.