10 famous stutterers: Everyone from Elvis to Ed Sheeran
By True Colors Festival Team
What do Bruce Willis, Joe Biden and Emily Blunt have in common? A history of stuttering, it seems.
You’ve heard it before. It sounds like a repetition of sounds, syllables or words; an extension of sounds; or interruptions in speech. It’s called stuttering, and about 70 million people have this neurological condition worldwide.
While 4% of people will outgrow their stuttering, 1% will stutter their whole lives. It is incurable but can be treated.
Stuttering, which can be a barrier to seamless communication, can be perceived as a barrier to success. And yet, these 10 famous stutterers have overcome the speech impediment to become public figures whose jobs require degrees of public speaking.
Here’s what each has had to say about their experience with stuttering.
“The hardest thing I remember was being a kid stuttering. My advice to the people in this room is to never let anyone make you feel like an outcast, because you will never be an outcast,” he said while tearing up and quoting Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” said Bruce Willis at the American Institute for Stuttering’s annual gala in 2016.
Source: Hollywood Reporter
“And from a stuttering point of view, don’t treat it as an issue—work through it and get the treatment that you want to get, but don’t ever treat it as an issue, don’t see it as a plight on your life, and carry on pushing forward,” remarks from Ed Sheeran’s speech at the American Institute of Stuttering’s annual gala in 2015.
“I think in some ways, when you go through something like having a stutter, you become a really good listener. You absorb the world in a different way. Because you’re maybe less inclined to talk when you’re going through it,” said Emily Blunt in an interview with Marie Claire in February 2020.
Source: Marie Claire
“As Examiner.com noted, “People struggling with stammering issues can find inspiration in knowing that they share something deeply personal with one of the most successful singers of all time,” it is written about Elvis Presley on The Stuttering Foundation.
Source: The Stuttering Foundation
“All the memories of my past difficulties came spilling out at Nanavati. When I met my doctor who treated me at age 14 for stammering, I could barely control my emotions. It’s not easy to be a special child,” he added, “I got over it, so will you. I think it is very important for me to convey this message far and wide and I want to do it more often.” Hrithik Roshan made these comments in November 2008 when he appeared at Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai to inaugurate the hospital’s audio and speech therapy wing, of which he is a major financial benefactor.
Source: The Stuttering Foundation
James Earl Jones
“I couldn’t speak to people without breaking up and stuttering. I still stutter, but I’ve learned how to use it, how to work around it,” said James Earl Jones in an interview with ABC in 2013.
“It has nothing to do with your intelligence quotient. It has nothing to do with your intellectual makeup,” said Joe Biden at a CNN town hall in February this year. He opened up about his life-long struggle with stuttering and said it occasionally happens when he finds himself really tired.
“As a kid, I used to stutter. I think that’s why I put my energy into making music. That’s how I get my thoughts out, instead of being crazy all the time,” recalled Kendrick Lamar in an interview with Spin Magazine.
Samuel L. Jackson
“I stuttered really, really, really bad for a long time…to the point that I stopped speaking for, like, almost a year in school,” said Samuel L. Jackson on The Howard Stern Show in 2016. The remedy, it seemed, was swearing.
“I know what it’s like to be different and sometimes not fit in… I also stuttered as a child and I would talk to my dog and he would sit there and listen until he fell asleep… You have a great family and big fans like me on your side. Be well and keep fighting. I’m certain you’ll be great at anything you do,” wrote Tiger Woods in a letter to Dillon, a teenager who stutters and had attempted suicide due to being bullied by his classmates.