Lots of people struggle with dyslexia, a learning difficulty that often affects the sufferer’s reading, spelling and writing. It’s estimated, in fact, that more than 40 million adults in the U.S. are dyslexic – and that most of them have no idea that they even have the condition. But if you have dyslexia, you’re certainly not alone and you definitely don’t have to worry. These 20 celebrities are all dyslexic, for example, and they’ve still achieved some pretty amazing things.
20. Keira Knightley
As a child, Keira Knightley actually battled her dyslexia with the indirect help of another famous British actress. That’s right: it was focusing hard on understanding Emma Thompson’s script for Sense and Sensibility that helped Knightley with her reading. And in return for her effort, her parents let the future star get an acting agent.
19. Danny Glover
Danny Glover had very little support, if any, at school for his condition. Indeed, the Lethal Weapon actor has remarked of his experience struggling in education, “In San Francisco in the ’50s there was no test for dyslexia… because of my grades, the counselor made a comment to my mother that I was r*****ed.” Yet he went on to achieve great success as a Hollywood star and, finally, ended up being diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult.
18. Richard Branson
Richard Branson didn’t build a huge business empire despite being dyslexic, more because of it. Indeed, as the Virgin Group founder has explained on his website, “I see my condition as a gift, not a disability. It has helped me learn the art of delegation, focus my skills and work with incredible people.” He’s even penned a letter to a nine-year-old girl who also has dyslexia, encouraging her to succeed and presenting being dyslexic as “an advantage.”
17. Florence Welch
Singer Florence Welch was diagnosed with both dyslexia and dyspraxia before she even reached middle school. As a result, the Florence + the Machine star had to take “special lessons: doing letters in sand and holding up cardboard tubes to my eyes,” as she explained to The Guardian in 2010. And yet Welch’s feeling of being unique even back then inspired her in later life to embrace her difference in her music – something that, given her record sales and legions of fans today, has more than paid off.
16. Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg was bullied at school because of his dyslexia; still, he’s had the last laugh by going on to become one of the most successful filmmakers of all time. And if his stellar career isn’t inspiration enough, well, in an interview with learning disabilities and difficulties online community Friends of Quinn, the legendary director also had these wise words of advice for dyslexics: “You are not alone, and while you will have dyslexia for the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go. It will not hold you back.”
15. Anderson Cooper
As he related in a 2005 edition of O magazine, Emmy-winning TV anchor Anderson Cooper was raised in a family “where reading and writing had great value,” though his dyslexia unfortunately prevented him from joining in. Luckily, his school noticed that he was having difficulties reading and assigned him to a specialist – something for which Cooper is still appreciative today.
14. Billy Bob Thornton
“When I was growing up, they just thought I was slow. Teachers thought I was lazy,” Billy Bob Thornton said when being interviewed for the 2012 documentary Dislecksia: The Movie. And after a tough ride though school, he also ended up quitting college after just one year. Thornton has triumphed since, though, by becoming an award-winning actor and screenwriter.
13. Patrick Dempsey
Patrick Dempsey floundered while reading his Grey’s Anatomy scripts due to his dyslexia, with which he had been diagnosed aged 12. And despite continuing to battle against his condition, the actor wouldn’t necessarily erase it if he could. As Dempsey explained in a 2006 interview with Barbara Walters, “I think [dyslexia has] made me who I am today. It’s given me a perspective of – you have to keep working. I have never given up.”
12. Channing Tatum
Actor and dreamboat Channing Tatum had a tough time growing up because of his dyslexia; understandably, then, he has strong feelings about what could be done to assist other young people like him at school. “The system is broken,” the Magic Mike star elaborated to The New York Times in 2014. “If we can streamline a multibillion-dollar company, we should be able to help kids who struggle the way I did.”
11. Vince Vaughn
Vince Vaughn spoke at length about his dyslexia back in 2005, with WENN quoting him as saying that he “learned differently than other kids” and that he “had to go to a special class once a day, which was really embarrassing.” Still, there’s a silver lining to having a learning difficulty, according to the Wedding Crashers actor: “If you respond in a way where it forces you to work harder, you end up developing a really good work ethic.”
10. Tom Cruise
It’s now pretty well known that superstar actor Tom Cruise has dyslexia, because he credits the controversial religion Scientology for somehow “curing” it. Organizations like The Dyslexia Foundation are, perhaps rightly, very sceptical of this claim – but that hasn’t stopped keen Scientologist Cruise from repeating it.
9. Henry Winkler
Happy Days star Henry Winkler, who was diagnosed with dyslexia aged 31, became an advocate for dyslexic young people in 2003 when he started releasing his Hank Zipzer children’s books. And the popular series, published using the easy-to-read “Dyslexie” font, is yet another in a long line of accomplishments for the veteran star – proving beyond doubt that dyslexia needn’t be any barrier to success.
8. Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves was expelled from high school – or, in his own words, he “didn’t bother to finish” – partly because of his dyslexia. Faced with not being able to understand his lessons, the future star acted out instead and got himself into trouble. Now, of course, he’s an extremely popular, wildly successful actor and has been labeled one of the nicest folks in Hollywood to boot.
7. Salma Hayek
Dyslexia didn’t remotely hold Salma Hayek back; while it made learning English difficult for her, for example, she still succeeded. And when Donald Trump somehow managed to confuse 9/11 and convenience store chain 7-Eleven in a speech, the actress fired back at him by tweeting, “I am a dyslexic Mexican and English is my second language, however even I do not confuse 7/11 with 9/11.” We suspect that The Donald needed ice for that burn.
6. Jay Leno
“We didn’t call it dyslexia then,” Jay Leno explained on a 2014 episode of 60 Minutes when asked what it was like going through high school with dyslexia. “It was called, ‘Smarten up, smarten up, smarten up.’” The future talk show host only began to overcome his condition when guided towards creative writing – and now, of course, he’s famous for having a way with words.
5. Bella Thorne
Just like her Shake It Up character Cece, Disney star Bella Thorne is dyslexic. However, she also hopes to encourage other young people who have the condition to succeed as she has. And it’s certainly not held her back from penning a trilogy of young adult novels, for example: a feat inspired by, as Thorne related to Perez Hilton in 2014, “all the people that say I couldn’t do it.”
4. Whoopi Goldberg
“The advantage of dyslexia is that my brain puts information in my head in a different way,” Whoopi Goldberg once told Friends of Quinn founder Quinn Bradlee. And she has most definitely used the condition to her advantage. Indeed, the former high school dropout is one of a very small group of people who have won all four of the main entertainment awards: a Grammy, a Tony, an Emmy and an Oscar.
3. Tommy Hilfiger
Tommy Hilfiger, world-famous fashion designer, has actually revealed that his dyslexia helped him create and shape his uber-successful apparel and accessories empire. “I thought when I was in school that I was just one of the dumb ones,” Hilfiger told the audience at the 2016 Literacy Partners Evening of Readings and Gala Dance in New York City. “I felt like I was not going to succeed and I think it probably motivated me to think of what else I could do.” Turned out, though, that he could do a lot.
2. Orlando Bloom
As a kid, Orlando Bloom was encouraged to think of his dyslexia as more than an obstacle – even though school was still hard for him. Now, however, the Pirates of the Caribbean star has provided helpful and rather heartwarming advice to parents who have children with the condition, saying, “If you have kids who are struggling with dyslexia, the greatest gift you can give them is the sense that nothing is unattainable.”
1. Jennifer Aniston
Sadly, Jennifer Aniston went through her childhood feeling like she “wasn’t smart.” A revelation came, however, when the now grown-up Friends star was told, while getting her eyes tested, that she was dyslexic. “Now I had this great discovery,” Aniston revealed to The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. “I felt like all of my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas were explained.”