Celebrities with Dyslexia

Tough to Diagnose

dyslexia_illustrationDyslexia is the most common learning disorder. Even so, it was not largely understood until the late 20th century. Even today it can be hard for doctors to diagnose. There are evidence-based treatments which are effective, even for adults with the condition. Given what we know now, many famous people may have had dyslexia, including Leonardo da Vinci, Saint Teresa, Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison.


Steven Spielberg

This movie mogul has had his own close encounter with dyslexia, though he didn’t know until he was 60 that he had the disorder. Bullied as a kid, he struggled through school and dropped out of college in 1968. Since then, the famed filmmaker has fought back using the big screen. The Goonies, a cult classic he co-wrote and produced, reflects Spielberg’s teen years as a self-proclaimed “nerd” and “outsider.”


Jennifer Aniston

Who knew one of America’s best TV Friends has dyslexia? Aniston herself didn’t know until she was in her 20s. She says finding out explained why it was so hard to read back in school and why she chose the role of class clown over teacher’s pet. The diagnosis answered a lot of questions. “I felt like all my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas, were explained,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.


Whoopi Goldberg

You wouldn’t have known this outspoken co-host of The View  if you’d met her as a kid. Back then, she was named Caryn, and class bullies called her “stupid.” The multi-talented Goldberg didn’t even find out she had dyslexia until well after she dropped out of school. She’s since earned tons of honors, including one of the rarest combinations of all: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award.


Henry Winkler

Best known as “The Fonz” on Happy Days, this actor-turned-author was always one to improvise on the set. Winkler confesses his trouble reading was a big reason for going off-script. He says dyslexia also taught him kindness. You can see that when he talks about Hank Zipzer, “world’s greatest underachiever” and the main character in the children’s books he’s written about dyslexia.


Muhammad Ali

The legendary heavyweight boxing champ may have been able to “float like a butterfly” and “sting like a bee,” but he could barely read. Dyslexia was one of Ali’s first bouts. While he often bragged of being “the greatest” in the ring, his wife says he countered with this punch line: “I never said I was the smartest.”


Richard Branson

The head of his high school predicted this British entrepreneur would end up in prison or become a millionaire. Try billionaire, with a “b,” many times over. Branson says dyslexia and what he describes as “a different way of thinking” have helped him succeed. The Virgin Group founder has launched more than 400 companies, including a recording label and airline. He’s also been knighted by Queen Elizabeth.


John Irving

Wrestling is as much a theme in this author’s life as it is in his novels. Dyslexia has also been a main character. When words were too hard, Irving took to the gym in high school. Wrestling carried him to college, where the writing bug took hold. Since then, book titles have been his claim to fame.


Jay Leno

The comedian and former host of The Tonight Show says there wasn’t really a name for dyslexia when he was in high school — everyone just told him to smarten up. It all turned around when a creative writing teacher suggested he put some of the funny stories he was always telling on paper. “That was the first time in my life I really focused on something,” Leno told 60 Minutes.