Its hard to believe that our idols, celebrities and people who have gained super-star status in fields where they are constantly in front of the camera and millions of people once had or have speech impediments. (a.k.a Stutter or Stammer)
In this post, we will be taking a look at 10 world famous celebrities from different fields and how they treated their stutter, overcame it and the “tricky” techniques they used which most people don’t know about.
Here we go;
10 Famous People Who Stutter and How They Treated Their Stutter.
#1. Marilyn Monroe.
Marilyn Monroe struggled with stuttering for the most part of her life even as a professional actress.
Monroe stuttered as a child growing up, and this speech impediment later returned for two years when she was a high-school student. She even got fired from her role in the unfinished movie “Something’s Got to Give” (which was her last by the way), she was under so much stress from her personal life that her stuttering returned and caused her many problems in delivering her lines.
How Marilyn Monroe treated her stutter: By using the breathy style of speech (A speech therapist taught her how deliberate breathing prior to speaking which formed her trademark style of speaking)
When young people who stutter see famous names such as Marilyn Monroe they can see that they too can strive to have the same kind of important voice, whether they choose acting or any other profession.
#2. Samuel L. Jackson.
In an interview with Vulture, he said “Growing up a stuttering black kid in Tennessee in the fifties didn’t quite make me think I was going to end up in a place like this”. Just like most kid who stutter, Jackson was made fun of by his classmates and according to him, he studied and got smarter as “revenge,” and how, eventually, he learned how to “pretend to be other people who didn’t stutter.”
How Samuel L Jackson treated his stutter: By using the word “motherfucker”.
According to Jackson – “I stuttered for a long time, and it actually did help me stop. The word gave me something to focus on and released the pressure, and it really helped me get the rest of the sentence out. I’m not real sure why, but it’s easy for me to pronounce. It was spontaneous on how I discovered it—it was the word that hit me, and the word that kind of helped me stop stuttering with the d-d-d’s and b-b-b’s.”
Even as an oscar winning actor, Samuel L Jackson still stutters and continues to yell “motherfucker” or whisper it to himself to help him through some tough speech times. “The word still helps me today,” he said. “I still stutter a little bit. I have days and I get through it.”
#3. James Earl Jones.
If you are into movies, there’s a high chance you will know who James Earl Jones is. He is the genius behind the voice of the Darth Vader in Star Wars and may other huge movies.
Growing up, Earl was almost mute for 8 years due to his severe stutter. In an interview with DailyMail, Jones recalled that “As a small child, I would communicate to my family, or at least those who didn’t mind being embarrassed by my stutter or my being embarrassed, I did communicate with the animals quite freely, but then that’s calling the hogs, the cows, the chickens. They don’t care how you sound, they just want to hear your voice.”
How James Earl Jones treated his stutter: His high school teacher’s skepticism helped him regain his voice.
Jones recounts that “I had started writing poetry in high school and he said of one of them, ‘Jim, this is a good poem. In fact, it is so good I don’t think you wrote it. I think you plagiarized it. If you want to prove you wrote it, you must stand in front of the class and recite it by memory.’ Which I did. As they were my own words, I got through it.”
His teacher un-knownignly sparked his interest in poetry and this helped him become a better speaker. Over the years, Earl learned to control his stutter but he maintains that it never fully goes away. In an interview with NPR, Jones said of his stuttering, “I don’t say I was ‘cured.’ I just work with it.”
James Earl Jones on Overcoming His Stammer
#4. Emily Blunt.
After bursting into stardom with her amazing performance on “The Devil Wears Prada”, Emily has become a household name in hollywood. You wouldn’t be able to tell that Emily suffered from stuttering early in her life, in interview with W magazine, she said “I was a smart kid, and had a lot to say, but I just couldn’t say it. It would just haunt me. I never thought I’d be able to sit and talk to someone like I’m talking to you right now.”
She has done more than just talk, she has created a portfolio of amazing roles and a high net worth career in acting.
How Emily Blunt treated her stutter: Through acting; by emulating another accent.
In the same interview with W Magazine in 2008, she recounted that “I did have a bad stuttering problem as a child. I’d try to push the words out, but it was frustrating. My parents took me to speech coaches and relaxation coaches. It didn’t work.
Then one of my teachers at school had a brilliant idea and said, ‘Why don’t you speak in an accent in our school play?’ I distanced myself from me through this character, and it was so freeing that my stuttering stopped when I was onstage. It was really a miracle.”
This tactic of speaking in another accent or pretending to be someone other than yourself works. I personally use it and 9 out 10 times if am talking to someone in the UK, they always say “Are you American? , you sound American”. I didn’t know i was low-key doing the same thing Emily did to overcome her stuttering.
Emily Blunt Opens Up About Being Bullied For Her Childhood Stutter
#5 Steve Harvey.
Why does Steve Harvey send his sixth-grade teacher a television every christmas? Well, because he wants her to see “that little boy with the stuttering problem is on TV, seven days a week,”. She ridiculed him in class one day when she asked what he wanted to become and he said he wanted to be on TV.
Steve Harvey is an accomplished American comedian, television host, producer, radio personality, actor, and author who had a rough start in the beginning, his stutter made it even worse for him to envision himself as someone who could achieve his dreams of “being on TV”. He didn’t let his fear hold him back!
How Steve Harvey treated his stutter: A counterman in his neighbourhood, told him that before you say anything, say it to yourself three (3) times, take your time, and speak on the exhale.
This approach helped Steve overcome his stutter, the incentive of candy by the local Deli man who taught him this strategy of speech also helped him.
Steve’s Powerful and Personal Response to Stuttering.
Steve Harvey’s refusal to give up in the face of adversity serves as inspiration to the stuttering community.
#6 Ed Sheeran.
As a successful British musician who came into the scene with his hit single “The A Team” in 2011, Ed Sheran has grown to become a house hold name in the music industry but everything was not all rosey for the red hair artiste, he had to deal with stuttering growing up in England.
Speaking about what the hardest part of stuttering was for him in 2015, he said “The thing that I found most difficult about it was knowing what to say but not really being able to express it in the right way.”
Like most parents would do, his parent had Sheeran try a variety of speech therapies to help with his stuttering, but it was memorizing music that he said helped him effectively remedy his stutter. “I got heavily into music at a young age, and got very, very into rap music,”
His advice for people who stutter is “Work through it and get the treatment that you want to get, but … don’t see it as a plight on your life, and carry on pushing forward.”
How Ed Sheeran treated his stutter: Listened and memorised fast rap music (Eminem’s album)
At age 9, his father gave him an Eminem album titled “The Marshall Mathers LP” which he listened and learn every word in the album back to back. “I learned every word of it back to front by the time I was 10,” Sheeran said. “And he raps very fast and very melodically and very percussively and it helped me get rid of the stutter.”
“Everything you think is wrong with you is actually right with you because that makes you an individual and that makes you an even more interesting human,” he said. “That makes you, you.”
Don’t be scared to be honest with yourself and with the people that love you.
#7 Tiger Woods.
The name Tiger Woods is synonymous with golf. Woods is one the best ever to play and has broken numerous golf records and also the first to make a billion dollars from the sport.
He started playing from the age of 2 and became a professional by the age of 20, he has amassed more career major wins and career PGA Tour wins than any other active golfer.
Through his journey to “success”, there’s one thing that would have held him back, which is his stutter. While giving an interview to CBS 60 Minutes in 2009, he said “You’re always called upon in elementary school to give speeches, or to answer a question,” Tiger Woods said. “A simple question was the most frightening thing you could possibly have happen if you can’t speak. I could certainly think it, and it was there, but the connection – the words got lost somewhere between the brain and the mouth, and it was very difficult. But I fought through it. I went to school to try and get over that, and I would just work my tail off.”
How Tiger Woods treated his stutter: He took speech classes.
Not a lot is known about Tiger Wood’s stutter because the world got to know he had a stutter in the first place because of the heartfelt letter he sent to a young athlete who was being bullied for having a stutter, In the letter he said “I know what it’s like to be different and to 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. I also took a class for two years to help me, and I finally learned to stop. I was younger than most of the kids I competed against and often I was the only minority player in the field. But, I didn’t let that stop me, and I think it even inspired me to work harder. I know you can do that too. 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.”
Woods turned a life long stuttering challenge into a source of motivation and achieved greatness regardless.
#8 Julia Roberts.
Julia Roberts didn’t only have to overcome her stutter but also the fear of public speaking. As an accomplished actress with a net worth of $140 million, one would think that acting and speaking came natural to her.
Just like any other young kid, she had to go through her own issues growing up. She and her brother both had a pronouncing stutter which made them fear speaking in public or any form of public speaking.
How Julia Roberts treated her stutter: Through speech therapy.
In numerous interviews, Roberts has confided that that “she overcame her stuttering problem through speech therapy, and achieving fluid speech helped her gain confidence as a public speaker”
She sort for help and got it. She did not let her stuttering hold her back from her dreams and goals of being an actress.
#9 Bruce Willis.
Bruce Willis suffered with stuttering in his first 20 years of life. Most people know him as a A-list action packed actor but only few the struggles with stuttering he had to overcome in order to become the great actor he is today.
In the book Bruce Willis; The Unauthorised Biography” Bruce recounting on his early days as a stammerer, he said “I could hardly talk. It took me three minutes to complete a sentence. It was crushing for anyone who wanted to express themselves, who wanted to be heard and couldn’t. It was frightening. Yet, when I became another character, in a play, I lost the stutter. It was phenomenal.”
Bruce even admitted that at times he was reluctant to discuss his childhood in probing interviews because it was too painful and a large part of the pain was due to his stuttering.
How Bruce Willis treated his stutter: By implementing a series of confidence building exercises encouraged by a school speech therapist.
Bruce used his confidence, funny nature and antics to compensate for his stutter. He is famously know for saying “Yes i stutter, but i can make you laugh”
He treated and overcame his stutter as a kid in school by making himself stand out in the crowd by becoming the joker, the mini-tearaway. Willis told an interviewer that “A big part of my sense of humor came out of my stuttering, in trying to overcome that and have some dignity. I said, Yes, I stutter, but I can make you laugh.”
#10 Elvis Presley.
Know as the king of rock and roll and one of the greatest to ever live, Elvis also suffered from stuttering. Unlike most of the celebrities on this list, Elvis’ stutter followed him to his adult life even as an accomplished musician. Matter of fact, Elvis can be heard stuttering in the below video several times whilst on stage.
In an interview, Presley said “Whenever I get excited, I stutter a little bit. I have a hard time saying ‘when’ or ‘where’ or any words that start with ‘w’ or ‘i.’”
How Elvis Presley treated his stutter: By singing and performing on stage.
Singing can be a form of speech therapy for people with stammering issues. Elvis started singing at an early age with his first public performance at the age of 10.
While Elvis chose to deal with his stuttering issue on his own through singing, he didn’t let his stutter stand in the way of his dream to become a successful entertainer. People struggling with stammering and stuttering issues can find inspiration in knowing that they share something deeply personal with one of the most successful singers of all time.
All stutter and stammer is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all guide or advice on how to treat, minimise or limit stuttering hence why this post is about showing different people (celebrities) from different walks of life treat and work on their stutter in different ways.
What works for me personally is assuming another character or accent (mostly American accent) and sometimes choosing to “speak like a President”, calm, collected and at peace.
I hope this blogpost has been valuable to you in some way and you’ve been able to gain something that you can start implementing today to treat and work on your stutter to become a much more fluent speaker.