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Robert De Niro opens up about how raising biracial children changed his life

The actor said he was worried for his children, and believes there needs to be change to root out systemic racism.

Robert De Niro opens up about how raising biracial children changed his life
Cover Image Source: Robert De Niro (L) and Drena De Niro (R) attend the 19th Annual Hollywood Film Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 1, 2015, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)

Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 17, 2022. It has since been updated.

Hollywood actor Robert De Niro has opened up about the deep love he has for his six children, and discussed the challenges of  raising his biracial kids in the current political climate. “I love my children, just being with them. When you have the good moments, you forget about the ones that weren’t good,” he told Us Weekly. De Niro has been a mainstay of Hollywood for decades and very few can claim to have starred in as many iconic blockbusters as the actor has, including "Taxi Driver," "The Godfather," "Mean Streets" and more. While he has had a stellar acting career, De Niro's personal life has been a set of crests and troughs. He married his "Taxi Driver" co-star Diahnne Abbott in 1976 and the pair had a son, Raphael. He also adopted Abbott's daughter from a previous relationship, Drena De Niro. The pair divorced in 1988 after more than a decade together. 

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 29: Actor Robert De Niro, his wife Grace Hightower and his son Raphael DeNiro attend the cocktail party for the 5th Annual Directors Guild Of America Honors at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel September 29, 2004, in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

De Niro went on to date Toukie Smith. They had two children—Aaron Kendrick De Niro and Julian Henry De Niro. They dated for a few years before splitting up in 1995. He then married actor and philanthropist, Grace Hightower, in 1997 and welcomed Elliot De Niro, in 1998 and Helen De Niro, in 2011. Robert De Niro was married to Hightower for over 20 years before the pair got divorced in 2018. He said it's not easy to raise children, especially as they grow older. “Sometimes you’re the last person they want to deal with. It’s like when you walk your kids to school, and they get older and they don’t want to hold your hand or kiss you goodbye,” he told PEOPLE.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 14: Jury President Robert De Niro (L) and his wife Grace Hightower attend the "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" premiere at the Palais des Festivals during the 64th Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2011, in Cannes, France. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Robert De Niro opened up about being worried for his kids, during an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon". “My children are all half black and I don’t have … even me, I take certain things for granted … When people say that they tell their kids, ‘Keep your hands when you’re stopped by any cops, keep your hands on the steering wheel, don’t make a sudden move, don’t put your hands below, don’t do this,’ you understand that. That’s scary. That has to change,” he said. “When you become a parent, there are certain things that you become more aware of, more sensitive about,” he told PEOPLE.


When asked about his kids following his career path, the actor said it was up to them. “For my kids, I tell them, ‘If you want to be an actor or you want to do this or that, that’s fine as long as you’re happy. Just don’t sell yourself short.’ That’s the most I would say—push yourself a little more and reach for what you really think it is you want to do. Don’t be afraid,” he said, before adding, “It’s important for them to find their own lane.”


He also spoke about the importance of helping his kids find their creativity. De Niro touched upon how his parents—artists Virginia and Robert De Niro Sr.—helped nurture his own creativity. “It’s not like my family sat around the table and talked about art, but they led by example. Expression through music, movies, acting, dance, whatever—those are expressions that people need to connect to,” said De Niro. “Whether it’s going to museums, theaters, movies, TV, whatever. We need that. It’s part of our culture, part of our society. It’s essential that it’s there.”

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