Maya Angelou was an award-winning author, poet, civil rights activist, college professor and screen writer. Most recognized for her literary works, Angelou was and remains among the most influential woman of her time. Angelou had selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that causes a child to not speak due to physical and psychological trauma they endured. In the five-year span that she experienced this, her listening, observing and memorizing skills improved and her love of books expanded. This helped her later when she began working in becoming successful in her career.
As a child, Simone Biles was diagnosed with Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). She takes medication for it, and is an advocate for it on social media. In a public statement, she said that ADHD is, "nothing to be ashamed of and nothing that I'm afraid to let people know." Biles is an Olympic champion who is the most decorated American gymnast of all time. She won individual gold medals in the 2016 Olympics in all-around, vault, and floor, as well as winning the overall team medal with other gymnasts. In the 2020 Olympics she won a bronze medal and was part of the silver medal team. She is a five-time World all-around champion, five-time World floor exercise champion, and six-time United States national all-around champion. She has also won 14 world championship medals.
Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of England from 1940-1945 and from 1951-1955. Widely regarded as one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, Churchill is believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder. After observing numerous symptoms such as depression, suicidal intention, mania, and a decreased need for sleep, Churchill’s doctor, Lord Moran, recounted in his memoir Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, that he had diagnosed a middle-aged Churchill with bipolar disorder.
Albert Einstein was a German/American theoretical physicist who famously developed the theory of relativity. He also added to several other scientific theories, including the photon theory of light and the quantum theory of monatonic gas. Einsten was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Many speculate that he lived at the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and was thought to have had Asperger's Syndrome.
Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott is a rapper and music producer who has won four Grammy Awards, eight MTV Video Music Awards, six BET Awards, and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. However, in 2008, at the height of her career, she was diagnosed with Graves disease, a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid gland. She withdrew from the spotlight for a few years to get her condition under control, at first with medicine, and now with diet and exercise. She has since spoken out about it, and hopes that she can be an inspiration to many.
Bethany Hamilton overcame the loss of her left arm in a shark attack at age 13 to become a world-champion surfer and inspirational public figure. There have been two movies about her life: Soul Surfer and Unstoppable. She has also written several books and is a motivational speaker.
Daymond John is a multimillionaire and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and CEO of the FUBU clothing line, and is one of the "sharks" on the Emmy award-winning television show Shark Tank. As a child, he did well in math and science but struggled with reading. He was initially diagnosed with a learning disorder, but later it became apparent that he is dyslexic. Despite this, his determination and hard word led him to success. He attributes his dyslexia to helping him dream bigger. “I see the world in a different way than most people and for me that’s been a positive thing.” His influence and motivation on TV and through his books and motivational speeches has inspired thousands to overcome challenges and achieve goals.
American educator Helen Keller overcame the adversity of being blind and deaf to become one of the 20th century's leading humanitarians, as well as co-founder of the ACLU. Her efforts to improve treatment of the deaf and the blind were influential in removing the disabled from asylums. She also wrote of her life in several books, including The Story of My Life (1903), Optimism (1903), The World I Live In (1908), My Religion (1927), Helen Keller’s Journal (1938), and The Open Door (1957).
When Keira Knightley started school it was, to quote Keira, “amazing.” She was at the top of her class. The only problem was that Keira wasn’t actually reading, she was reciting the books she’d heard at home by heart. It was only when she was given a book she wasn’t familiar with that her teachers and her mother realized she couldn’t read at all. By the time Keira was 6 and a half, she was diagnosed with Dyslexia.
Like so many children who are diagnosed with Dyslexia or other learning disabilities, Keira saw herself differently. She had gone from being at the top of her class to the bottom. Fortunately, her teachers and her mom taught her that being dyslexic “doesn’t mean you’re stupid…it just means that you work in a different way.”
Kevin Love has achieved a lot in 34 years. He is a five-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star. He won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. He is also a basketball world champion and a U.S. Olympic gold medalist. But he has experienced challenges. He lives with depression and anxiety and has suffered from panic attacks. He even had one during an NBA game.
Howie Mandel is a comedian, actor, and television host, most known for his role as judge in the show America's Got Talent. He has also done voice acting and was the host of Deal or No Deal. Howie has mysophobia (an irrational fear of germs) to the point that he doesn’t shake hands with anyone. He shares of his struggles with this as well as OCD and ADHD in his book Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me.
Peyton Manning is a retired NFL quarterback who played for 18 seasons. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He won numerous awards during his career, including the NFL's Most Valuable Player, which he won five times. However, his start in life was challenging. Born with a cleft palate, Manning struggled with eating, and he was often bullied. He had to endure several surgeries throughout his childhood. In 1999 Peyton and his wife Ashley started the Peyback Foundation, which helps disadvantaged youth with assistance programs. Peyton also has a hospital named after him: Peyton Manning Children's Hospital in Indianapolis.
Marlee Beth Matlin is an American actress. She is the youngest, and only deaf performer to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, which she won for Children of a Lesser God in 1986. In addition to acting, Matlin has written two books: Deaf Child Crossing and I'll Scream Later. She now stars in Coda, a hit show on Apple TV about a deaf family with a hearing child.
John Nash Jr., was a legendary mathematician and is the only person ever awarded both the Nobel Prize and the Abel Prize. He worked for MIT and later at Princeton University’s Department of Mathematics. He was renowned for his breakthrough work in mathematics and game theory as well as for his struggle with mental illness, specifically schizophrenia. His life was later portrayed in the movie A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe.
Itzhak Perlman is an Israeli-American violinist, music teacher, and conductor. He is renowned for his incredible musical knowledge and skills and is treasured by audiences around the globe. For him, creating music is a way of expressing himself. Perlman has performed worldwide, including at events like the presidential inauguration of President Obama and a State Dinner at the White House honouring His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He contracted polio at the young age of four and has since then walked using crutches and leg braces.
Michael Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD in elementary school, and his mother, Debbie Phelps, a school administrator near Baltimore, Md., introduced him to swimming to help him cope with his ADHD symptoms. From there, Mr. Phelps swam into history as a top American athlete. He is a five-time Olympian, with a total of 28 medals, which is the all-time record. He also holds the record for most gold medals earned, which is 23.
Amy Purdy began snowboarding at age 15, but when she was 19 she contracted bacterial meningitis. Doctors gave her a two-percent chance of living. She was able to survive the infection, but lost both of her legs below the knee. Despite these setbacks, Purdy went on to become one of the top ranked adaptive snowboarders in the world. She was also the 2014 Sochi Paralympic bronze medalist and is currently the only double-leg amputee competing in snowboarding at the world-class level. In 2005 Amy co-founded Adaptive Action Sports, a non-profit organization that helps those with permanent disabilities get involved in action sports. She has also competed in The Amazing Race and Dancing With The Stars. Her book, On My Own Two Feet, is a New York Times Bestseller.
Christopher Reeve had various stage and television roles before becoming the star of Superman and its sequels. In 1995 he became paralyzed from the neck down following a horse-riding accident. From his wheelchair, Reeve went on to direct movies and make appearance in TV shows. He also wrote two autobiographies, Still Me and Nothing is Impossible. He and his wife founded what became the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in 1996 to promote research on spinal cord injuries.