Sir Sidney Poitier was a multi-award-winning actor, movie director, writer, and international diplomat. The first black African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, as well as the Golden Globe Award in the same category, Poitier’s career life has earned a place in history.
In addition to his illustrious showbiz career, Sydney Poitier was equally a distinguished diplomat, having served as the Bahamian ambassador to Japan. Notwithstanding his outstanding achievements in his illustrious career, Poitier’s love life with his longtime partner Joanna Shimkus raised the bar a little higher.
The Hollywood couple were together for decades, something considered a milestone in the showbiz circle where divorce has become too rampant. Their love story was worthy of note but who is the woman that has kept the Hollywood legend’s heart for more than forty years now?
Joanna Shimkus Was Born In Canada
Joanna Shimkus is of Irish and Jewish descent, She was born in the Canadian province of Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia. The actress grew up in Montreal with her family after staying with her grandmother for a while. Shimkus was raised by a Lithuanian-Jewish father and an Irish mom from a Catholic background. Her father served in the Royal Canadian Navy back when she was growing up.
For her education, Joanna Shimkus attended a convent school but the name is not disclosed. She would later leave the country for Paris to pursue a career in modeling. She was 19 at the time and while she worked as a fashion model, she caught the attention of casting directors looking for fresh talents in the movie industry. This was how she became an actor and moved to the United States.
Joanna Shimkus Made Her Acting Debut in 1964
Long before she met her husband, Shimkus began building her career as an actress, starting with her debut onscreen role in 1964’s All About Loving (De L’amour), a Jean Aurel film. Her debut received rave reviews, leading to more roles in succession. Film director Robert Enrico booked her for three of his films and she subsequently appeared in The last adventure (1967), Zita (1968), and Ho! (1968).
Before the end of the decade, the actress bagged more roles in movies like The Uninvited, Boom!, The Lost Man and more. She continued building her career in the film industry but slowed down around the early ’70s and gradually dropped off the radar. The reason behind this can be traced to her relationship with Sidney Poitier which began in 1969.
Her last starring role was as Joan McLaine in 1972’s A Time For Loving. Though she took a long break to focus on her personal life, Joanna has made occasional appearances, taking up the role of a producer in the TV movie The Force in 2010 and Black Irish – a short project she also produced in 2011. She also made a brief appearance in the short film Yard Sale. Nevertheless, she doesn’t seem to fancy the showbiz industry anymore and told St. Petersburg Times in 1971 that acting wasn’t really her thing. For her, it’s just a way to sort out her bills.
She Met Poitier On The Set Of The Lost Man in 1969
Shimkus met the Bahamian-American actor, director, and diplomat while working on the set of The Lost Man in 1969. Sidney Poitier was one of the actors in the film alongside Joanna and the movie takes credit for changing their lives forever. They found each other attractive and began dating. The relationship led to a wedding that took place in January 1976.
Shimkus’ film career may have been short-lived, but her marriage to Poitier stayed longer. Prior to Sidney Poitier’s death, the two were one of the celebrated couples in Hollywood with more than four decades of blissful matrimony. Their marriage stood the test of time.
The Marriage Between Sidney Poitier and Joanna Shimkus Produced Two Children
Anika Poitier and Sydney Tamiia Poitier are the products of the romance between Joanna Shimkus and Sidney Poitier. Both daughters have followed their parents’ footsteps into the entertainment industry.
Their first child Anika was born on February 29, 1972, in Manhattan, New York, USA. True to the family tradition, Anika is a film director and actress with credits in projects like Swordfish (2001) and The Devil Cats (2004). She was the director of Black Irish while her mom served as the executive producer. The film earned her the 2012 Adrienne Shelley Filmmaking Grant.
Anika gave Joanna and her husband two grandchildren. One of her kids is a daughter named Palona.
Sydney Tamiia Poitier
Born on November 15, 1973, she is also an accomplished actress in her own right and the last child of the legendary actor and his wife Joanna. Sydney Tamiia has been acting since 1998. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and further honed her skills at Stella Adler Studio of Acting. She is known for her roles in TV series like Veronica Mars, Joan of Arcadia, and Chicago P.D., as well as Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.
Sydney is married to Dorian Heartsong and they have a daughter named A’Zalia Delancey Coffey.
Marriage To Joanna Shimkus Was Sidney Poitier’s Second Attempt
Long before Joanna came along, Sidney Poitier was married to a woman known as Juanita Hardy. The marriage lasted for 15 years from April 1950 to 1965 and was marred by cheating rumors. Poitier had a nine-year affair with actress Diahann Carroll and while it came to light after his first marriage ended, it is believed that their relationship began while Poitier was still married to Juanita. However, he never got married to Carroll.
Poitier’s first wife, Juanita Hardy, is the founder and managing principal of Tiger Management Consulting Group. The outfit is a business consulting services firm specializing in executive coaching for senior professionals. They also engage in creative placemaking in the real estate industry. She may not be a Hollywood personality but Juanita is doing well in her field.
Sidney Poitier Has Four Children From His First Marriage
The actor has a total of 6 children, all daughters, and also has a lot of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. With his first wife Juanita Hardy, Poitier had 4 daughters; Beverly, Pamela, Sherri, and Gina. Beverly is his first child born on July 4, 1952, but her career path is not known.
Pamela Poitier is his second daughter born on April 12, 1954. She is an actress, known for her appearances in Stir Crazy (1980), The Jackal (1997), and Air America (1990).
Sherri is also an actress born on July 12, 1956, in the USA. Some of her popular works include A Piece of the Action (1977) and The Fighting Temptations (2003).
Gina, on the other hand, passed away on May 27, 2018. She was 57 at the time of her death. The family did not disclose the cause of death but it was sudden and heartbreaking. Gina left behind two daughters Guylaine Marie-Rose Gouraige, Gabrielle Marie-Therese Gouraige, and a son Etienne Poitier Gouraige.
Sidney Poitier was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974, he was also given an honorary Oscar for his career’s work in motion picture. (At that same Oscar award ceremony, Denzel Washington became the first Black actor since Mr. Poitier to win the best-actor award, for the movie “Training Day.”). Back in 2009, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.