According to the International Dyslexia Association, it is estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the population has symptoms of dyslexia. Despite having the developmental reading disorder, these stars have made it big.
While many people are diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, Whoopi Goldberg didn’t find out she suffered from the learning disability until she got older. She struggled in school and was called dumb and slow. Despite what others said about her, the Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Emmy award winner had one very important cheerleader in her corner who told her she could do and be anything she wanted in life. “I knew I wasn’t stupid, and I knew I wasn’t dumb,” Goldberg said in an interview with “Ebony” magazine. “My mother told me that.”
Hollywood star Tom Cruise is probably the world’s most famous Scientologist. The “Mission Impossible” star has credited the controversial religion with helping him overcome dyslexia. Cruise was diagnosed with the disorder when he was seven years old. He was first introduced to Scientology through his first wife Mimi Rogers in 1990 and since then he’s been an ardent and vocal supporter of the church and its associated programs.
Dyslexia played a very important role in Ozzy Osbourne’s life. The Black Sabbath frontman suffered from a severe case of the disorder. School became so difficult for the rocker, he dropped out of high school and occupied his time with music. That proved to be his calling and he made a name for himself in the 70’s and 80’s by laying the blueprint for what would become heavy metal and earned the nickname as the grandfather of that music genre.
Alyssa Milano started acting when she was young. She became a child star when she was cast in the sitcom “Who’s The Boss?” Despite being dyslexic, the “Mistresses” star hasn’t let that stop her from learning her lines. She learned how to overcome the disorder by following the advice of British actor Sir John Gielgud back in 1986. “When I asked him how he memorized his monologues, he said, ‘I write them down,'” Milano recalled in 2003. “I use that method to this day. It not only familiarizes me with my words, it makes them my own.”
Cher always knew she wanted to be a singer, even when she was just a little girl. Suffering from dyslexia, the “If I Could Turn Back Time” singer despised school and not because she was determined to be an entertainer when she grew up. Cher was dyslexic and school was more than just a struggle for the future star and icon. She described school as hell and was told that she was lazy.
Actor Patrick Dempsey was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child and he still battles with the disorder today. The “Grey’s Anatomy” star was candid when talking to television journalist Barbara Walters during one of her specials. “I think it’s made me who I am today,” said Dempsey. “It’s given me a perspective of — you have to keep working,” Dempsey tells Walters. “I have never given up. I think that’s when I get the most insecure. It’s very hard for me to read it off the page. I need to memorize it, in order to go on.”
Actress Keira Knightley was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age but she used it as a bargaining chip with her parents. Desperately wanting to become an actress she made a deal with her parents that she would study twice as hard and in return her parent would get her a talent agent. “I was diagnosed when I was six,” the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star told the “Daily Mail. “I worked hard to get the better of it and by the time I got to secondary school, it was much better. I can read and write – badly – but I’m fine reading scripts. And I did leave school with starred As in my GCSEs!”
Henry Winkler is perhaps best known for playing the leather jacket wearing bad boy Fonzie who always uttered the catchphrase “Heyyyy” on the classic sitcom “Happy Days.” Winkler struggle as a student in school because of dyslexia and as a result his relationship with his parents were strained. After becoming a star, Winkler made it his mission to bring awareness to the disorder and has written a children’s book about the adventures of a dyslexic fourth grader.
Actor Orlando Bloom has starred in not one but two blockbuster franchises but few know of his struggles with dyslexia. Before he was diagnosed with the disorder at the age of seven, school was a nightmare for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star. “It was a struggle. It was a lot of work,” Bloom said during his speech at the Child Mind Institute, an organization devoted to children’s mental health. “I had to work three times as hard to get two-thirds of the way. I was frustrated with that learning disability. It makes you feel stupid.”
Bruce Jenner is an Olympic gold medalist and a motivational speaker who used his star power to bring about awareness to dyslexia. He lent his voice to the documentary “Demystifying Dyslexia,” which gave viewers a first hand look at the challenges of living and learning with the disorder. Overcoming his challenges, the reality show star is also an entrepreneur and author.
Anderson Cooper rose to national prominence with his coverage of Hurricane Katrina. One of the first journalists on the scene, he was emotional at times and it struck a chord with many viewers. But few know the silver haired fox actually suffers from a mild case of dyslexia. Despite the disorder, he still had a love for reading. He went to a special reading instructor who encouraged him to find books that covered topics he was passionate about.
Sir Anthony Hopkins has accomplished a lot in his career. The Welsh actor got his start in theater back in the 60’s and since then he’s starred in a multitude of projects and is considered one of the greatest actors alive. He also suffers from dyslexia, which made his accomplishments that much more amazing. Hopkins would have to memorize a script way more than other actors, sometimes going over the pages as many as 250 times in order to learn his lines.
Comedian Jay Leno was tapped to take over for Johnny Carson as the host of the “Tonight Show.” Leno has kept the audiences laughing since the 90’s but in 2007 he got serious with his audience and shared something very personal. The gray-haired star revealed that he had suffered from dyslexia. He shared more of his struggles with the disorder on “60 Minutes.” “We didn’t call it dyslexia then. It was called, ‘Smarten up, smarten up, smarten up.’” Leno said he learned to focus for the first time in his life when a high school English teacher introduced him to a creative writing class.