8 Successful Stars Who Have Overcome Learning Disabilities (PHOTOS)

Ericka Sóuter | Jun 6, 2014 Celebrities
8 Successful Stars Who Have Overcome Learning Disabilities (PHOTOS)

Solange Knowles
When people think of celebrities, they usually envision fab lifestyles with tons of cash and servants at their disposal. But the stars are more like us than most people imagine, especially when it comes to learning disabilities. Not even the rich and famous can escape the struggles of these disorders, which are often diagnosed in childhood but can make some aspects of everyday life more difficult for a lifetime. 

Take a look at 8 stars who have overcome learning disabilities to reach the pinnacle of success. They are all quite inspiring. 


Image via Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

  • Keira Knightley


    Image via Johns PKI/Splash News/Corbis

    Going through a pile of scripts wasn't always a breeze for the British star. Diagnosed with dyslexia at age 6, her parents had her focus on reading skills so that she could realize her dream of being an actress. Now she credits that struggle for making her strong and teaching her tenacity.

  • Justin Timberlake


    Image © Splash News/Splash News/Corbis

    Before Justin Timberlake was a singer-songwriter, actor, entrepreneur, and SNL funnyman, he was also a Mouseketeer ... and diagnosed with ADD (and OCD). That certainly didn't slow down his one-way trip to Successville.

  • Salma Hayek


    Image via © Splash News/Splash News/Corbis

    Hayek didn't learn she had dyslexia until she was a teen, but it never slowed her down. "Some people read really fast, but you’ll ask them questions about a script and they’ll forget," she has said. "I take a long time to read a script, but I read it only once.”

  • Bruce Willis


    Image via © Jared Milgrim/The Photo Access/The World Access/Corbis

    Always cool as a cucumber on screen, Willis endured a severe stutter the first 20 years of his life. "I could hardly talk. It took me three minutes to complete a sentence," he reportedly has said. Acting actually helped him overcome it. "A big part of my sense of humor came out of my stuttering, in trying to overcome that and have some dignity," he added. "I said, 'Yes, I stutter, but I can make you laugh.'"

  • Whoopi Goldberg


    Image via © Debby Wong/Corbis

    An undiagnosed dyslexic until she was an adult, Whoopi faced many blocks on her road to superstardom. Things were so bad, teachers reportedly told her she was dumb and slow. Eventually she dropped out of high school and became addicted to drugs. She eventually got her life on track and went on to become an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winner -- one of just 10 people who have done so.

  • Orlando Bloom


    Image via © Splash News/Splash News/Corbis

    When Bloom learned he was dyslexic, he tried to hide it from other kids. "I was an angry child at times," he explained. "I was frustrated with the learning disability. It makes you feel stupid; you just don’t feel smart. Somewhere in me I knew that I was smart, I knew I wasn’t thick, but I was just really struggling with spelling and writing, and it was holding me back." Acting, however, helped him through his struggles. "I think creativity is the key to any child who has dyslexia. When I was on stage performing, creating -- that was really what got me through."

  • Solange Knowles


    Image via Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

    When Solange was first diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, the singer couldn't accept it. "I didn't believe the first doctor who told me and I had a whole theory that ADD was just something they invented to make you pay for medicine, but then the second doctor told me I had it," she said. "I guess I was in denial." She has said, "People think I'm high even when I'm sober."

  • Tom Cruise


    Image via © Hewitt/Splash News/Corbis

    Cruise once described himself as a "functional illiterate" due to his dyslexia. Because of his struggle with reading, he focused more on sports and theater, which came more naturally. Though he still knows the importance of education, especially with a disability that may be holding you back. He went on to co-found the Hollywood Education and Literacy Project (H.E.L.P.), which offers free tutoring around the world.


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