Wesley Trent Snipes (born July 31, 1962) is an American actor, film producer, and martial artist, who has starred in numerous action films, thrillers, and dramatic feature films. Snipes is known for playing the Marvel Comics character Blade in the Blade film series. Snipes formed a production company, Amen-Ra Films, in 1991 and a subsidiary, Black Dot Media, to develop projects for film and television. Snipes has been training in martial arts since age 12, earning a high ranking 5th dan black belt in Shotokan Karate and 2nd dan black belt in Hapkido. He has also trained as a student of Capoeira under Mestre Jelon Vieira and in a number of other disciplines including various styles of kung fu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As of 2011 Snipes is serving a prison sentence for misdemeanor failure to file U.S. federal income tax returns.
Snipes was born in Orlando, Florida, the son of Marian, a teacher's assistant, and Wesley R. Snipes, an aircraft engineer. He grew up in the Bronx, New York City. He attended P.S. 132, an elementary school in the Bronx. Snipes graduated from I.S. 131, a middle school in the Bronx, and also attended the famed Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing, but moved back to Florida before he could graduate. After graduating from Jones High School in Orlando, Snipes returned to New York and attended the State University of New York at Purchase, before being asked to leave his junior year. Snipes also attended Southwest College in Los Angeles.
At age 23, Snipes was discovered by an agent while performing in a competition. He made his film debut in the 1986 Goldie Hawn vehicle Wildcats. Later that year he appeared on the TV show Miami Vice as a drug-dealing pimp in the episode "Streetwise" (first aired December 5, 1986). In 1987, he appeared as Michael Jackson's nemesis in the Martin Scorsese-directed music video "Bad" and the feature film Streets of Gold. That same year, Snipes was also considered for the role of Geordi La Forge in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.