The 50-year-old actor – who is best known for the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise – was awarded an honourary Doctor of Humane Letters in English degree from the same institution, Hunter College, he quit three decades ago at a graduation ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Wednesday.
During his speech, he said: “While I was in Hollywood I always had this pride of Hunter College.
“I would tell everybody that I learned and took so much away from my experience at Hunter College.
“I was young, I was a bouncer, when I wasn’t bouncing I was in these classrooms with the most diverse student body on the planet.”
Diesel, who was sporting the college’s purple graduation gown, told the crowd of around 1,800 students that it was that “pride” that kept him going when he was turned down for parts because he’s biracial.
He said: “Nobody was hiring a multicultural kid. You can imagine a movie like ‘Glory’ … Who are they going to hire you to play? Denzel’s part or Matthew Broderick’s part.
“The world wasn’t ready yet.
“We’re strivers. We can overcome anything. You learn that here and you take into the world.
“And then you can look at Hollywood and change the face of Hollywood.
“You can literally change the face of Hollywood because of that dignity and pride and willingness to fight.”
The ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ star also talked about how he went back to his job as a bouncer initially, because he struggled to find acting roles – but he was determined to make it as a Hollywood star.
He recalled: “All the bouncers were saying, ‘Oh, I thought you were going to be a big movie star.’ And I had to sleep on couches. And I had to come up with another way.” – Showbiz