Joseph Baena was living a fairly normal life for well over a decade, but things drastically changed 11 years ago when the world found out that Arnold Schwarzenegger was his father.
"I remember the day very vividly," the 24-year-old told Men's Health. "I was in the eighth grade. Fifth or sixth period. And I get called out of class to leave. And my mom's there, and she's like, 'We gotta go — everyone is finding out about you and who your father is.'"
He added, "I'm 13. Your body's transforming; your mind is transforming. And now my life transformed before my eyes."
Although the "Terminator" actor was married to Maria Shriver at the time, he had an affair with Mildred Patricia "Patty" Baena, who was an employee of the Schwarzenegger family for nearly 20 years. That affair resulted in a love child. Despite being born in October 1997, the identity of Joseph's father was kept secret. But, when Arnold was publicly revealed as Joseph's father, the teen and his mom went on a road trip to Texas to escape the media circus.
"She was really the only person I had, and I was really the only person that she had," he said. "No one knew, and everyone wanted the details. We had each other's backs."
Although Joseph won't specify when he and his father first spoke after the revelation, the two developed an unbreakable bond. When Joseph turned 18, he and his famous father, a former Mr. Universe, began working out together.
"I was so nervous," Joseph remembers. "I was being observant, trying to see what he was doing and the way he was acting."
An aspiring actor, Joseph realizes he could easily use the Schwarzenegger moniker to open a few doors, but he's never wavered in his determination to keep the Baena name.
"My dad is old-school; he doesn't believe in handouts. He believes hard work pays off, and so do I," he explained. "I love the word honor, and I'm very prideful in the sense that if I use my dad's contacts or ask him for favors, I wonder what honor is that gonna bring me? When I go to auditions, they don't know who I am, because we don't have the same last name."
Plus, he wants to make his dad and his family proud by carving his own path.
"It took a little bit for me to realize that I don't have to do what my dad did. I don't have to get into acting or bodybuilding. I'm very motivated and driven. I'm happy about my relationship with my dad. But I'm more happy that I am finding joy in what I'm doing and that I'm doing exactly what I've always dreamed about," he said. "A lot of guys struggle with trying to make their dad proud or trying to get out of their dad's shadow, but as long as you're doing what you want to do, then that all comes. Of course, maybe those guys don't have such nice dads."