Stars Who Overcame Learning Disabilities

These stars struggled with everyday tasks, from focusing to reading to tying their shoes, until they were diagnosed with learning disabilities. It makes their success even more inspiring when you realize just how hard they hard to work for it.

Vince Vaughn

Vince Vaughn admitted to Contact Music that it wasn't just academic trouble that came from his dyslexia, but also insecurity. "It's more emotional situations where I had to go to a special class once a day, which was really embarrassing when you're younger," he explained. Thankfully, the actor overcame his hindrance and realized he wasn't alone. "As I got older I was invited to this school in Washington, D.C., that teaches kids with learning disabilities," he said. "The funny thing is there are really successful people who had learning disabilities, like CEOs of medical companies. If you respond in a way where it forces you to work harder, you end up developing a really good work ethic because you have to work harder."

Henry Winkler

It's hard to imagine the Fonz having any sort of difficulties, but Henry Winkler suffers from dyslexia and math issues. The Happy Days star has toured schools speaking about learning difficulties and was even awarded an honorary Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth for his work in 2011.


Cher revealed in her autobiography, "I couldn't read quickly enough to get all my homework done and for me, math was like trying to understand Sanskrit." She didn't learn she was dyslexic until she took one of her children to be evaluated for their own learning issues.

Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey admits that his ADHD caused him to be disruptive in school, making learning not just tougher for him, but for anyone else around him during class. Thankfully, the funnyman eventually channeled his energy into acting and used it to create his signature brand of physical comedy.

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake overcame a lot: the singer, actor, and SNL staple was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and obsessive compulsive disorder as a child, which made it tremendously difficult to focus in school. He went on to be one of the most successful performers of all time. Not bad, right?

Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek was diagnosed with dyslexia as a teen, and the actress says it's actually helped her career. "Some people read really fast, but you'll ask them questions about a script and they'll forget," she told iVillage. "I take a long time to read a script, but I read it only once."

Jamie Oliver

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver was so frustrated by his dyslexia that he didn't finish reading his first book until he was 38 years old. The book that kept him going? The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley told The Boston Globe that her dyslexia helped her develop the motivation and tenacity to succeed in Hollywood, because her parents forced her to get good grades in order to pursue her passion. ”I was so single-minded about acting," she says. ”I drove myself into the ground trying to get over dyslexia and when I finished school I had the top grades."

Orlando Bloom

Like his Pirates of the Caribbean co-star Knightley, Orlando Bloom overcame dyslexia to achieve A-list status. He told PBS, "I had to work three times as hard to get two-thirds of the way."

Daniel Radcliffe

If you've ever gotten an autograph for Daniel Radcliffe and noticed it was illegible, don't be mad at him for it. The Harry Potter star suffers from dyspraxia, which hinders his coordination. Radcliffe had trouble tying his shoes and still finds penmanship problematic. Good thing those all those wand-waves weren't real...

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise suffered from dyslexia so debilitating as a teen that he described himself as a "functional illiterate." The diagnosis led him to focus more on theatre than on studying, and it seems to have worked out pretty well for him.

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg didn't know that she had dyslexia until she was an adult. She explained to Values, "I knew I wasn't stupid, and I knew I wasn't dumb. My mother told me that. Everybody told me I wasn't stupid or dumb. If you read to me, I could tell you everything that you read. They didn't know what it was. They knew I wasn't lazy, but what was it?"

Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper credits his dyslexia with helping him become a war correspondent later in life. He told O magazine, "As a child, I had a problem reading. I had a mild form of dyslexia where I would see some letters backward, and I had to go to a special reading instructor. One way she helped was to encourage me to find books that I was really passionate about. I feel very lucky for her coaching."

Steven Spielberg

Can you imagine anyone calling Steven Spielberg dumb or lazy? Of course not. But the legendary director faced bullying from classmates and grief from teachers as a child because he was dyslexic—and he didn't know it until he was in his 60s. He called the diagnosis "the last puzzle piece to a great mystery that I've kept to myself."