There is always a constant misconception with people with disabilities. They get judged by their appearance, and often are segregated and treated differently, sometimes even undervalued and disrespected. Health and disability should be a private matter, but when you’re a celebrity in the spotlight it’s hard to avoid being splashed on every headline. In this case, celebrity disabilities shine a positive light on the misconception that being different or having to work harder than others, means that the things we want the most can’t be achieved. These celebrities show us otherwise, that success and dreams can be accomplished despite having a cognitive disability or a birth deformity. Cher, David Bowie, Zooey Deschanel, Whoopi Goldberg and Daniel Radcliffe, all familiar names of successful celebrities that struggled and continue to struggle with their disabilities. Revealing that success can be achieved, despite being different or having to work harder. Net Worths of $100 million and more, multiple accolades, actors, businessmen, comedians, musicians, journalists and more, here are 40 Celebs With Disabilities You Didn't Know They Had.
1. Jennifer Aniston: Dyslexia
Actress, producer, and businesswoman, Jennifer Aniston has grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide from films where she played leading roles, with 12 of them earning at least $100 million.
The former "Friends" star has opened up many times talking about her struggles with dyslexia. Aniston spoke to a Hollywood reporter about her condition, and how it hurt her self-esteem during some of her formative years. She found out she had the learning disability in her 20's. “I thought I wasn’t smart. I just couldn’t retain anything,” she says. “Now I had this great discovery. I felt like all of my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas were explained,” the star expressed.
2. Daniel Radcliffe: Dyspraxia
Actor Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the wizard in the Harry Potter movies, is not only a hero in his movies, but one for many children who are struggling with dyspraxia, speaking out for kids with the disability.
Radcliffe doesn't take issue with memorizing the scripts for the five "Harry Potter" movies, but has struggled with managing activities such as tying his shoelaces and handwriting. In a Facebook chat with The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog, Radcliffe offered encouragement to a 10-year-old girl with dyspraxia. “Do not let it stop you,” he said. “It has never held me back, and some of the smartest people I know are people who have learning disabilities.”
3. Orlando Bloom: Dyslexia
Pirates of the Caribbean star made his breakthrough as the character Legolas in The Lord of the Rings film series. Along with his success and fame, Bloom has also struggled with his diagnosed dyslexia, but has definitely not let it hinder his career.
An IQ test administered when he was seven years old verified the fact that Bloom had a high IQ, yet he struggled with reading and spelling. In a 2010 interview with Adam Katz Memorial Lecture, an annual event designed to raise awareness of dyslexia and ADHD, Bloom spoke about the effects of his condition. “I was an angry child at times. 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,” Bloom expressed.
4. Harry Styles: Extra Nipples
Harry Styles is arguably the most beloved member of One Direction, for so many reasons. He's gone on to make a career for himself as a solo artist after the dissolution of 1D.
During the interview, Handler asked Styles a series of questions that he was supposed to answer with only one word, and one of them was, "There's a rumor on the Internet that you have four nipples. Have you heard that?" to which he said, "Correct." Clinical research for the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says having extra nipples isn't uncommon.
5. Richard Branson: Dyslexia
English business magnate, investor, author, and former astronaut, Richard Branson was placed in the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World list. Forbes listed Branson's estimated net worth at US$5.7 billion, as of July 2021.
During an interview with CNBC, the billionaire says dyslexia is at least partially responsible for his success and people with the condition are likely to have “the skills of the future.” Branson continues, “My dyslexia has shaped Virgin right from the very beginning and imagination has been the key to many of our successes.”
6. Jim Carrey: ADHD and Dyslexia
Jim Carrey has an extremely successful stand-up comedy and film career, but he didn’t have an easy time making his way to the top. Best known for his roles in Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, The Truman Show, and Liar Liar, the star was diagnosed with both dyslexia and ADHD as a child.
Carrey recalls experiencing myriad behavioral issues while growing up in school. Throughout much of his life, he struggled with depression. There has been speculation that his difficulties in childhood increased his vulnerability to experiencing major depression. But despite these struggles, Carrey has continued to build a successful career and reputation.
7. Cher: Dyslexia and ADHD
One of the most iconic performers of her generation, instantly recognized around the world by her first name, Cher. The superstar has lived in the public eye since she was a teenager, and continues to make great strides in her success.
Cher has both dyslexia and ADHD. Her learning differences didn’t keep her from pursuing her passions, however. And they’ve led her to advocate for kids with learning and thinking differences. Her unique accomplishments were recognized by President Reagan on October 31, 1985, when Cher was included among several other prominent people as “outstanding learning disabled achievers” in a ceremony in the White House.
8. Tom Hardy: Permanently Curled Finger
English actor, producer and screenwriter Tom Hardy has starred in many acclaimed and awarded movies. Hardy has been nominated and won numerous awards for his knack of portraying characters perfectly in every film.
With his success, Tom Hardy has also been in the spotlight for his curled pinky finger. This was the result of a kitchen knife incident that occurred when he was younger, which left his pinky finger permanently curled. Despite this, it hasn’t impeded him in any sport, acting role, or any other endeavors.
9. Anderson Cooper: Dyslexia
Anderson Cooper is a well-known journalist and TV personality on CNN, but he struggled with dyslexia at a young age. Fortunately, he grew up in a family that placed importance on reading and writing. His parents hired a special reading instructor who helped by encouraging him to find books that he was truly passionate about.
In an interview with Understood, Cooper expressed “I don’t think it’s an accident that I became a war correspondent. I’m interested in stories of survival: how some people make it through desperate times and others don’t.”
10. Tom Cruise: Dyslexia
Tom Cruise has received various accolades for his work, including three Golden Globe Awards and three nominations for Academy Awards. He is one of the highest-paid actors in the world, grossing over $4 billion in North America and over $10.1 billion worldwide from his films.
Cruise does not often open up about his childhood and struggles with family and dyslexia. But he has made comments about struggling with this disability as a child. Cruise opens up in a 2006 interview with East Bay Times. “I’d try to concentrate on what I was reading,” Cruise said. “Then I’d get to the end of the page and have very little memory of anything I’d read.” Cruise continues, “I would go blank, feel anxious, nervous, bored, frustrated, dumb. I would get angry. My legs would actually hurt when I was studying. My head ached.”
11. Patrick Dempsey: Dyslexia
Best known for his role as neurosurgeon Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd in Grey's Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey had a difficult childhood growing up. In a TV interview with Barbara Walters of ABC News, Dempsey said he was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was 12 years old. Before that, he had been misdiagnosed and put in special education classes.
"I think [dyslexia has] made me who I am today," he revealed. "It’s given me a perspective of — you have to keep working. I have never given up." Even with all of his success, Dempsey is still learning to overcome his dyslexia. "I’ve gone back and started to learn to read on a very basic level," he added. "I’m healing that part as well as developing my daughter."
12. Zooey Deschanel: ADHD
Zooey Deschanel is a famous actress who has demonstrated that living with ADHD may not be that difficult. She has built quite a successful career for herself and her role as Jessica Day on the Fox sitcom New Girl received nominations for a Primetime Emmy Award and three Golden Globe Awards.
She revealed on her HelloGiggles.com website that to help settle her ADHD she prefers to “focus [her] unfocused mind on projects that can be completed very quickly.”
13. Matthew Perry: Partially Severed Middle Finger
Matthew Perry rose to fame for his role as Chandler Bing on the hit show Friends, but many may not know that he is missing part of his middle finger.
Perry opened up about an accident he had as a child. When he was three years old, Perry shut a door on his hand. His middle finger is missing the top inch of his fingertip and while it may not be wildly obvious, upon closer examination his middle finger is the same length as his pointer finger. Despite this injury, it did not stop him from having a great acting and modeling career moving forward.
14. Dan Aykroyd: Webbed Feet
Canadian-American stage, film, and television actor, comedian, writer, producer, and musician who was an original member of the "Not Ready for Prime Time Players" on Saturday Night Live.
Aykroyd is one of many celebrities with two toes on each foot being webbed, almost to the top knuckle. An estimated 1 in every 3000 people has a form of webbed feet.
15. Richard Engel: Dyslexia
American journalist and author, and NBC News' chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel is best known for having covered the Iraq War, the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War. Recipient of the Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism, Engel, was diagnosed with Dyslexia at a young age. He struggled for some time growing up with a learning disability.
At a Speak Up for Children event in New York City on May 17, 2013, Engel opened up about his condition, “Nothing worked…. I would answer test questions and then the answers on the paper wouldn’t make any sense…. I could add five plus five and get Nebraska.” But he didn’t let it stop him or hinder his career. “I think it’s a gift, I mean, who wants to think like everybody else?” he expressed.
16. Karolína Kurková – Missing Bellybutton
Many people who’ve seen Victoria’s Secret angel Karolina Kurkova on the runway have noticed that her belly button is missing.
According to BBC, there could be medical reasons that explain her missing belly button: “Some have no belly button as a result of the surgery needed to correct abdominal problems at birth, often either an umbilical hernia, or a condition known as gastroschisis–born with the stomach and intestines poking through a hole in the abdominal wall.” But Kurková has never confirmed nor denied any of these suggested claims.
17. Whoopi Goldberg: Dyslexia
Recipient of numerous accolades and well known for her comedy and acting, and being one of the few people to ever receive an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards, also grew up with Dyslexia.
In 2016 the star took part in the 13th annual Adam Katz Memorial Conversation, Goldberg sat down with Dr. Harold Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute, to talk about the challenge of growing up with dyslexia. “What I remember about being a kid was that I felt pretty protected, I wasn’t afraid, and I had a mother who understood.” Goldberg’s dyslexia wasn’t diagnosed until she was an adult which made it more difficult for her, but despite this and the many struggles, she faced due to this late diagnosis she prevailed, and successfully at that.
18. Tommy Hilfiger: Dyslexia
Fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger started his career by co-founding a chain of fashion stores called People's Place in New York in the 1970s. He began by designing clothing for his own menswear line in the 1980s. The company later expanded into women's clothing and various luxury items such as perfumes, going public in 1992. Hilfiger later sold his company for $1.6 billion.
According to Femalefirst, Hilfiger’s inability to read well in school was the reason why he started the luxury fashion house at the age of 17. "I did it as a result of my inability to read well. I actually didn't realize I was dyslexic until later on in life, but I thought when I was in school that I was just one of the dumb ones. I felt like I was not going to succeed and I think it probably motivated me to think of what else I could do. I came to the conclusion when I was 17 that I should be in business," he explained.
19. Christopher Knight: ADHD
Actor and businessman best known for playing Peter Brady on the 1970s series The Brady Bunch, has since gone on to become a successful businessman. Knight revealed in Deseret News he had difficulty focusing and speaking slowly, these symptoms went undiagnosed until he sought medical help for depression after his brother's suicide in 1997.
Knight has taken part in the national awareness campaign about ADHD, sponsored by the National Consumers League and the ADDitude Foundation advocacy group. Knight reveals on the Outsider, “If I was just aware of it and had people around me, perhaps, aware of it,” Knight said. “And maybe I was born 20 years late. People would have identified it for me.”
20. Keira Knightley: Dyslexia
Hard work, a supportive mother, and understanding teachers helped Keira overcome obstacles associated with dyslexia. In an interview with Made By Dyslexia Interview Knightley revealed that her love of acting from the age of 3 became the carrot her mother dangled in front of her. As Keira’s headteacher, David Cooper, said, “If she wants to act, then you let her act but she’s only allowed to do it if her grades stay the same or go up.”
With all her success, the challenges Knightley faces due to her dyslexia do not disappear. For Knightley, it meant simple hard work. “A lot of it is down to perseverance and, hopefully, you will have parents who will work hard with you, because that’s what mine did. I still have days when reading just won’t work, but most days it will.”
21. Jay Leno: Dyslexia
American television host, comedian, and writer Jay Leno did stand-up comedy for years, after becoming the host of NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In 2014 Leno was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
Leno credits his successful career and savvy financial skills to “growing up with depression-era parents,” and partly to being dyslexic: “When you put numbers in front of me, I’m all over the place. If there’s any risk, I’m not interested. My money goes straight to the hammock,” the comedian tells CNBC.
22. Adam Levine: ADHD
Musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, actor and lead vocalist of the pop rock band Maroon 5, Levine has received three Grammy Awards, three American Music Awards, an MTV Video Music Award, and a World Music Award.
Levine wrote an article for Additude opening up about his struggles with ADHD growing up and throughout his adult life. But despite how it may have affected how he got on in school or how focused or overwhelmed he was in his career, Levine pushed forward. “If you were diagnosed with ADHD as a kid, you might still have it now. ADHD isn’t a bad thing, and you shouldn’t feel different from those without ADHD,” the star expressed.
23. Howie Mandel: ADHD and OCD
NBC's America's Got Talent judge Howie Mandel was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as an adult. Mandel has even admitted that, years ago, his OCD was so severe that when his kids were sick, he slept in a guest house to avoid germs.
When asked by interview health how the star manages both these conditions, he responds, “I’m surrounded by great help. As I speak to you right now, I’m heavily medicated and I see a lot of therapists.” Mandel believes his condition and the fact that he is a celebrity is “helping to remove the stigma from mental health issues. I deal with it every waking moment, each and every day – and a lot of other people do too.”
24. Alyssa Milano: Dyslexia
Actress, producer, singer, author, and activist, Milano is best known for her roles as Samantha Micelli in Who's the Boss? Jennifer Mancini in Melrose Place, and Phoebe Halliwell in Charmed. But all of her success was very difficult for her to achieve. Milano is dyslexic, and for her, memorizing lines and reading scripts hasn’t always come easy.
Though she struggled with reading early in her acting career, Milano credited British thespian Sir John Gielgud for helping her overcome her learning disability. "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."
25. Jamie Oliver: Dyslexia
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has revealed that his love of cooking “saved” him from becoming overburdened by his dyslexia. In an interview with CBBC star Nikki Lily, Jamie Oliver spoke about the difficulties he faced during school because of his battle with dyslexia.
“I did really badly at school with dyslexia. And to be honest I still struggle with it a bit today. I've had to learn little skills to get away with it,” Oliver explained. Despite not being an academic success, Oliver went on to open restaurants around the world and release a string of best-selling cookery books, proving that despite this disability, dreams are definitely possible.
26. Ty Pennington: ADHD
While many celebrities are resistant to talk about their learning challenges, Ty Pennington has always been vocal about his ADHD diagnosis. Former host of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and today the co-host of “American Diner Revival,” Pennington believes that it is not impossible for someone with ADHD to focus on one thing and achieve impeccably.
Pennington admits that ADHD hurt his confidence and his belief in his own abilities, but he found success by pursuing art, design, and carpentry.
27. Michael Phelps: ADHD
Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD in sixth grade. But while he couldn’t sit through class without fidgeting, he could swim for up to three hours at the pool after school. By age 10, Phelps was a nationally ranked swimmer.
Phelps opened up about his struggles with ADHD in a new video for the Child Mind Institute‘s Speak Up for Kids campaign. Phelps, who has earned 23 gold medals during his Olympic career, said he’s lived with ADHD “my whole entire life, and it’s something I continue to live with. It’s changed my life since the beginning.” He reiterates how important it is to open up and talk about your disability, “I think the biggest thing for me, once I found that it was okay to talk to someone and seek help, I think that’s something that has changed my life forever,” he says. “Now I’m able to live life to its fullest.”
28. Keanu Reeves: Dyslexia
Best known for his role in the Matrix, Keanu Reeves credits his acting to learning to cope with his dyslexia in school. “Because I had trouble reading, I wasn’t a good student,” Reeves explains to Handbag magazine. “I didn’t finish high school. I did a lot of pretending as a child. It was my way of coping with the fact that I didn’t really feel like I fit in.”
Despite the fact that Reeves had trouble reading, he was interested in stories. He loved Shakespeare, and this love for stories ultimately allowed him to become an actor. He took acting lessons and participated in school plays as a teenager, which ultimately led him to a very successful career in Hollywood.
29. Steven Spielberg: Dyslexia
Diagnosed with dyslexia at 60, Spielberg described it as “the last puzzle piece to a great mystery that I’ve kept to myself.” The diagnosis helped explain why he struggled so much in school despite his other obvious talents.
In an article he wrote for Additude, Spielberg’s message for people with dyslexia is simple. “You are not alone, and while you will have dyslexia for the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go. It will not hold you back.”
30. Tim Tebow: Dyslexia
New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was seven years old. Before coming to the NFL, Tebow attended the University of Florida, where he not only won the Heisman Trophy playing for the Florida Gators but also graduated with honors.
Tebow admitted that he requires extra time to learn plays and makes special provisions for himself so that he can do so. "So I just made flashcards, I take each one, and then boom, when I'm traveling, I just flip through it," he explained. "That really helped me. Writing it down, flipping through and quizzing myself, that was a great way for me to do it."
31. Justin Timberlake: ADD and OCD
Justin Timberlake says he suffers from a combination of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. The 27-year-old singer revealed the condition affects many parts of his daily life - right down to making sure objects are always lined up perfectly. But despite these struggles, is one of the world’s best-selling music artists, with sales of over 88 million records worldwide.
Timberlake is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including ten Grammy Awards, four Emmy Awards, nine Billboard Music Awards, the Contemporary Icon Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. According to Billboard, he is the best performing male soloist in the history of the Mainstream Top 40. Living proof that despite a very overwhelming disability, immense success is definitely possible.
32. Vince Vaughn: ADD and Dyslexia
Best known for his starring roles in blockbuster hits like Wedding Crashers, Starsky and Hutch, and The Breakup, Vince Vaughn was in elementary school, when he began to struggle significantly with reading, writing, and focusing in class. He was diagnosed with both dyslexia and ADHD as a child.
He later decided to become an actor in high school, and credits his academic difficulties to have shaped him into someone who doesn’t give up and has the ability to fight more than others for what he wants. “When you have these setbacks, you develop a really good work ethic, because you have to try harder,” he has said.
33. Emma Watson: ADHD
English actress and activist Emma Watson gained recognition for her roles in both blockbusters and independent films, as well as her women's rights work. Watson has been ranked among the world's highest-paid actresses by Forbes and Vanity Fair and was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2015. Watson was also diagnosed with combined type ADHD.
While Emma hasn't spoken openly about the condition, ADHD Foundation said in a Facebook post that she had been diagnosed and medicated since childhood while filming the Harry Potter series.
34. Henry Winkler: Dyslexia
Winkler, who played the iconic role of the Fonz on Happy Days, opened up about how he could barely read growing up. “It was scary,” he said in a CBS TV interview. “I learned to memorize as much as I could from any page and then improvise.”
His best-selling children's book series Here's Hank, which follows the adventures and struggles of a dyslexic kid named Hank Zipzer. Winkler pulls from his own experiences to write the series along with Lin Oliver.
35. David Bowie: Permanently Dilated Pupil
People of all ages recognized and admired the late David Bowie, whether it was a childhood appreciation for Labyrinth or a lifelong love for Bowie’s music and extravagant personality.
But one of Bowie’s most unique traits was, and remains, the difference between his eyes. At first glance, it appeared his eyes were two different colors, but his pupils were actually two different sizes. This is a condition known as Anisocoria. Where the pupils are two different sizes. The word “anisocoria” translates into “not equal pupil condition.” However, while Bowie had a permanent case of anisocoria, the condition isn’t always lasting. And the difference in pupil size isn’t always as noticeable as Bowie’s. This condition is often genetic.
36. Joaquin Phoenix: Lip Scar
Hollywood legend Joaquin Phoenix, is one of many famous celebrities with a visible scar. Located on his upper lip, Phoenix’s scar has been a constant cause for speculation.
It is thought that Joaquin Phoenix was born with a microform cleft, an extremely mild form of cleft lip that appears like a scar. The actor has reportedly stated in interviews that the scar was an ‘act of God’. Birthmark or scar, it has done nothing to stop Phoenix from rising to stardom.
37. Megan Fox: Clubbed Thumbs
The Transformers star has some high profile acting gigs to her name - including horror flick Jennifer's Body, How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, New Girl, This Is 40 and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot - but there's something other than her acting and looks that people seem to be interested in.
The shape of her thumbs is due to a condition called brachydactyly, an inherited condition caused by unusually short bones, according to Health Line. The obvious and most common symptoms of the condition are shortened fingers and toes, which other family members are likely to have, too.
38. Daryl Hannah: Missing Fingertip
American actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannad made her screen debut in Brian De Palma's supernatural horror film The Fury 1978. She has starred in various movies across the years, and won a Saturn Award for her role as one-eyed assassin Elle Driver in Quentin Tarantino's two-part martial arts action film Kill Bill in 2014.
A childhood accident involving her grandmother’s mobility stair lift left the actress missing the top of her index finger on her left hand. But losing a body part helped her gain insight into what’s important in life. “It has bestowed on me an ability to be a more compassionate person,” she told Daily Mail.
39. Jennifer Garner: Crooked Toe
Garner gained recognition for her leading performance as CIA officer Sydney Bristow in the ABC spy-action thriller television series Alias (2001–2006). For her work on the series, she won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress in a Television Drama and received four consecutive Primetime Emmy Award nominations.
The star suffers from a condition called brachymetatarsia, in which one of the bones in the foot is too short, causing one of the digits to be either abnormally short or overlap.
40. Martin Sheen: Short Left Arm
Martin Sheen’s deformity is so subtle, most of us probably never noticed it. In an interview Sheen revealed, “I’ve got this deformed left arm, three inches shorter than the right, can’t do a thing with it”.
This disability has been part of Sheen since he was born. During a difficult birth, Sheen's left arm was crushed, which would remain to impact the actor throughout his life. By adulthood Sheen’s arm was three inches shorter than his right arm.