- Ryan Reynolds
2023 Horatio Alger Award Winner — Actor, Produceur, Entrepreneur
“If you do things with genuine enthusiasm, and I don’t believe that you can make anything good in this world without enthusiasm, and people feel that from you, and it’s genuine, I think things tend to work a little bit better.”
Ryan Reynolds was born in 1976, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was brought up in Kitsilano. Growing up as the youngest of four brothers, his childhood was filled with the simplicity of an era where kids could explore freely, getting home by dinner after adventurous days. “It was like one of those childhoods where as soon as the sun comes up, you hop on your bike and your parents basically say, be home by dinner. And that’s the extent of the conversation,” Ryan recalls.
His father worked as a food broker and his mother always had a thirst for learning and growing, and still does in her 70s, which Ryan says inspires him. But coming from a lower middle-class family, he learned the value of making do with what you have and giving back when there is an abundance. Despite occasional household tensions, Reynolds honed his perceptive skills as the youngest sibling, becoming adept at reading emotional nuances and using his quick wit to navigate life’s challenges.
His first jobs included delivering newspapers and venturing into acting with a role in the children’s soap opera “15 Hillside.” This early foray into the entertainment world ignited a spark that would shape his future.
At the age of 16, Ryan faced a pivotal moment when his family had to sell their home due to rising property taxes. Determined not to live in the suburbs, he moved in with one of his brothers and took on a variety of jobs, including working at Safeway and a colourful but questionable restaurant-bar named Fiascos, to make ends meet. Despite these challenges, he managed to complete high school, a noteworthy achievement considering his circumstances.
Education held a special place in his father’s heart, and Ryan felt the pressure to follow a traditional academic path. While some of his brothers pursued higher education, he chose a different route. The turning point in Ryan’s early career came when he moved to Los Angeles at 18 to pursue his dream of joining the improv comedy group, the Groundlings. Undeterred by his lack of an agent or connections, he secured auditions and eventually landed a role in the sitcom “Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place.” While the show achieved moderate success, it provided Reynolds with valuable experience in the world of comedy and screenwriting.
Ryan’s career trajectory continued with roles in various films, including the cult classic “Van Wilder.” It wasn’t until his thirties, however, that he began to take his career more seriously. He started focusing on projects that genuinely resonated with him, rejecting the pressure to conform to industry expectations. This shift in mindset led to his involvement in iconic films like “Deadpool,” which became a game-changer in his career.
Beyond his acting prowess, Ryan leaned into entrepreneurship, demonstrating his acumen for storytelling in business. He invested in ventures like Aviation Gin and Mint Mobile, recognizing that branding and storytelling are central to every successful enterprise. Under Maximum Effort Productions, he merged his creative talents with marketing expertise, creating memorable advertising campaigns and cultivating a unique work culture.
One of Ryan’s notable philanthropic endeavors is the Group Effort Initiative, a program designed to provide opportunities for individuals typically excluded from the entertainment industry. This initiative offers aspiring talents a chance to gain hands-on experience and mentorship, helping them break into the industry.
Throughout his career, Ryan has exemplified the qualities of resilience, authenticity, and a genuine commitment to making a positive impact. His journey from a modest upbringing to becoming a beloved Hollywood figure and successful entrepreneur is a testament to his dedication, wit, and unwavering pursuit of his passions.
What I’ve Learned
Ryan’s success has allowed him the ability to give back. “Giving back is a selfish thing,” Ryan says. “It feels good.”
Philanthropy plays a significant role in Ryan’s life. His commitment to programs like the Group Effort Initiative reflects his belief in giving back. He understands the fulfillment that comes from helping others realize their potential and access opportunities.
Ryan is honoured to be a member of the Horatio Alger Association and excited to create a more robust system to give out scholarships.
“The idea that we can help young people who are looking for that access and looking for that opportunity, which is limited to so many for different sociological reasons, I’m excited about that.”