Cuba Gooding Jr. was born on January 2, 1968, in The Bronx, New York. His mother, Shirley (Sullivan), was a backup singer for The Sweethearts. His father, Cuba Gooding, was the lead vocalist for the R&B group The Main Ingredient, which had a hit with the song "Everybody Plays The Fool". His paternal grandfather was from Barbados.
Cuba's father moved the family to Los Angeles in 1972, only to leave them a few years later. Despite this setback, Cuba was able to maintain a positive outlook and overachieved throughout school. He attended four different high schools and was elected class president in three of them. While at high school, Cuba met and fell in love with Sara Kapfer, whom he later lived with for seven years before tying the knot in March 1994.
Following high school, Cuba studied Japanese martial arts for three years before turning his focus toward acting. Early on, he landed guest starring roles on shows like Hill Street Blues (1981) and MacGyver (1985). His first major role was in the 1991 box office surprise Boyz n the Hood (1991). He followed this success with supporting roles in major films like A Few Good Men (1992), Lightning Jack (1994) and Outbreak (1995).
In 1996, Cuba was cast as an arrogant but loyal football player in the Tom Cruise-Cameron Crowe film Jerry Maguire (1996). The film became a huge box office smash and earned Cuba an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His "Show Me The Money" line in the movie became a nationwide catchphrase. The role elevated him to superstar status, as many of Hollywood's top producers began to "show him the money" to appear in their films.
Since Jerry Maguire (1996), Cuba has managed to keep busy with a wide range of roles alongside many of Hollywood's biggest stars. Most recently, he won critical support for his portrayal of a mentally handicapped man in the heartwarming film Radio (2003), another movie about football. In 2002, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He resides in Studio City, California.