Dyslexia is a form of neurodivergence that can affect a number of things, such as: memory, organisation, reading, spelling. This can lead to dyslexic candidates believing that they are at a disadvantage. However, being dyslexic provides these famous people who have dyslexia with great strengths in other areas – especially regarding creativity, problem solving and seeing the bigger picture.
Because of this, it’s no surprise that so many dyslexic people have gone on to do amazing things – from actors, to artists, to entrepreneurs…dyslexics are common in the celebrity world. It is claimed that somewhere around a third of all successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. So, we thought we’d run through five celebrities who are dyslexic and famous, and their experiences with dyslexia, all in the name of dyslexia awareness week.
One of the most successful entrepreneurs of his generation, Richard Branson, dropped out of school at 15. He went on to build Virgin Records, which has since expanded into a number of industries, such as transport and telecommunications, and is estimated to be worth over 3 Billion US dollars.
He often speaks about his dyslexia, and how it helped him achieve his success. He has claimed it helped him to be creative, delegate well, and says it has influenced the Virgin branding – attempting to avoid jargon or complex words in their advertisements.
Whoopi Goldberg, one of only ten people to win Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award, is an actor, comedian and TV personality. Undiagnosed until adulthood, Whoopi suffered a tough time at school. Despite having an excellent memory and being extremely creative, people called her ‘dumb’ and ‘lazy’.
However, Whoopi showed just how amazing she was when she started her career in acting. Her big break came when fellow dyslexic, Steven Spielberg, saw her in a show and chose her to be in The Color Purple, winning her first Golden Globe. Since then, Whoopi has gone from strength to strength.
John Lennon, key member of the Beatles, was one of the most influential musical artists of all time – and he was dyslexic. In his youth, John loved Elvis and Buddy Holly, but struggled to remember lyrics, so he often made up his own.
Although never formally diagnosed, looking at his school work, experts and his biographers claim that John almost certainly had dyslexia but never knew. However, due to his great creativity, John let his talent shine through his music and song writing.
Jennifer Aniston, most famous for her role in Friends as ‘Rachel Green’, is an extremely successful female actress. She wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until adulthood, during a routine eye test. In her younger years, she struggled to retain information, and suffered insecurities as a result.
However, being diagnosed gave her relief that she wasn’t ‘dumb’, she was just different, and had a great new power. She told the Independent: “Now I had this great discovery. I felt like all of my childhood tragedies and dramas were explained.”
Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time, winning an Olympic Gold, induction into the Hall of Fame and was World Heavyweight Champion. He was loved just as much for his boxing, as his great creativity in his speech, most likely due to his dyslexia.
‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ is quite possibly his most popular quote, using a metaphor to visually describe his approach to boxing. Following his career, Ali and his wife worked to inspire young people who struggle with reading and writing, starting a series known as ‘Go the Distance.’