The Stars Who Have Overcome Learning Difficulties To Be Successful

Check out some of the most inspiring stories of the stars who have overcome personal learning difficulties to make massive successes of themselves.

1. Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson attends "Branson" New York Premiere at HBO Screening Room on November 29, 2022 in New York City.
Sir Richard Branson has spoken about his dyslexia. (John Lamparski/Getty)

The Virgin founder overcame his dyslexia to set up one of the most successful businesses around the world.

He struggled with other people’s attitudes when he was younger and dropped out of school because of it. Speaking this year, Mr Branson said his dyslexia was “treated as a handicap: my teachers thought I was lazy and dumb, and I couldn’t keep up or fit in.”

But Mr Branson was quick to point out that others would have been considered dyslexic like Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.

2. Adam Levine

The Maroon 5 frontman has spoken openly about getting a diagnosis for ADHD in his early teens.

He says: “My doctor diagnosed me with ADHD in my early teens. What was really helpful to me was learning that this was a real medical condition – I had ADHD.

“The diagnosis helped explain the challenges I was having in school, including my difficulty focusing, sitting down and getting my school work done.”

And he went on to be in one of the most successful bands ever.

3. Steven Spielberg

The Jurassic Park director, like Albert Einstein, struggled with college and eventually dropped out. Despite learning to read two years after his classmates, Spielberg says working in Hollywood helped him overcome his difficulties.

“I never felt like a victim,” he says.

“Movies kind of saved me from shame…from putting it on myself, from making it my burden when it wasn’t.”

4. Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks during an Apple special event April 8, 2010 in Cupertino, California. Jobs announced the new iPhone OS4 software.
Steve Jobs spoke openly about having dyslexia. (Getty)

The late Apple founder Steve Jobs spoke openly about his battle with dyslexia. He spoke openly about dropping out of college and of being frustrated with the academic system from a young age.

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards,” Jobs said.

“So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

5. Robin Williams

Robin Williams in the original Mrs Doubtfire film
Robin Williams in the original Mrs Doubtfire film. (IMDb)

The late Mrs Doubtfire star spoke openly for a long time about mental health. He often spoke out about his own battle with depression and a bipolar diagnosis, as well as living with ADHD.

Throughout his career, leading up to his death in 2014, Williams sought to break down the stigma of mental illness.

He lives on today in the hearts and minds of his fans who loved him.

6. Anthony Hopins

The Silence of the Lambs star has actually said he thinks his dyslexia made him more interesting as an actor.

In 2013, he said: “I was pathetic at school in Port Talbot. I don’t know if it was dyslexia or attention deficit disorder, or just me being a problem child, but I sat in the back of the classroom and didn’t know what any of the teachers were talking about — I was bottom of the class at everything. And I was made to suffer.

“But in a way that was a great gift that life gave me because in the end I was so angry and enraged that I made a certain choice in life. I thought: ‘I will get my revenge, I will become rich and famous and that will show them.’”

7. Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley (1935-1977), American rock 'n' roll legend.
The late Elvis Presley is believed to have had ADHD. (Getty)

Elvis was believed to have had ADHD, although the diagnosis was not made during his life.

The Jailhouse Rock star was one of the most successful musicians of all time, despite being believed to have shown symptoms of ADHD.

Although ADHD was first mentioned at around 1902, it wasn’t recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until the second edition in 1968.

8. Jim Carrey

The comic star has been open about being treated for ADHD since he was a child. He has also spoken openly about dealing with major depression at times in his life and has advocated for the stigma of mental illness to be dealt with.

The Dumb and Dumber star has also spoken about being prescribed anti-depressants.

9. Albert Einstein

Because of some details of his life, Albert Einstein is considered to have been dyslexic.

He failed to talk until the age of four and according to some accounts, did not learn to read until he was nine years old. Later in life, Einstein lost three teaching positions and it took several attempts to be admitted to college.

But Einstein went on to be one of the greatest minds, and throughout his academic career still excelled in various subjects.

10. Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers onstage during Comedy Central's "Roast of Joan Rivers" at CBS Studios on July 26, 2009 in Studio City, California.
The late Joan Rivers was diagnosed with ADHD. (Getty)

The late talk-show host, comedian and entrepreneur didn’t pull any punches when it came to critiquing others. But she also opened up about her own issues, including being diagnosed with ADHD.

She didn’t let her diagnosis stop her from becoming wildly successful.

11. John Lennon

The Beatles star was believed to have had ADHD and was diagnosed with dyslexia in school.

He went on to find massive fame in the Beatles, despite struggling at school with spelling and memorising information.

Lennon went on to form the Beatles and overcame the challenges to create some of the most well-known music in history.

12. Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne attends the Stella McCartney Womenswear Fall Winter 2023-2024 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on March 06, 2023 in Paris, France.
Avril Lavigne was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. (Getty)

The singer has spoken about being diagnosed with ADHD as a child and struggles she and her family had with overcoming it.

She released her hit album Let Go at the age of 17 and has gone from strength to strength.

Despite struggling with ADHD in her younger years, Lavigne continues to be one of the most successful recording artists of recent years.

13. Cher

Cher arrives at NBC's "Carol Burnett: 90 Years Of Laughter + Love" Birthday Special at Avalon Hollywood & Bardot on March 02, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Cher is one of a number of stars who’ve spoken about their dyslexia. (Kevin Winter/Getty )

Cher has spoken about her film roles and that she has to read slowly when checking scripts because she has dyslexia.

She was diagnosed at age 30, and her dyslexia was never spotted in school.

“I never read in school,” Cher said in an interview.

“I got really bad grades, D’s and F’s and C’s in some classes, and A’s and B’s in other classes. In the second week of the 11th grade, I just quit. When I was in school, it was really difficult. Almost everything I learned, I had to learn by listening. My report cards always said that I was not living up to my potential.”

14. Keanu Reeves

Bill & Ted star Keanu Reeves
Bill & Ted star Keanu Reeves (Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

The Matrix star dropped out of school before he finished after struggling with dyslexia.

He credits his successful acting career as having stemmed from a full-time act he put on at school to pretend that he understood things he really didn’t

Reeves says he thinks he was “coping with the fact that I didn’t really fit in.”

To this day the actor reads and recites Shakespeare to calm himself.

15. Emma Watson

Emma Watson turns to the side and smiles
Emma Watson. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

The Harry Potter star, known for portraying Hermione on the big screen was diagnosed with ADHD as a child.

As well as starring in one of the most successful film franchises in history, Watson has achieved an English degree from Brown University.

She also went on to become a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.

16. Michael Jordan

The famed basketball star didn’t let ADHD stop him from becoming one of the most successful athletes of his time both on and off the court.

Jordan starred in films and is still one of the most recognisable figures.

He is also a wildly successful businessman, having made millions from merchandise and other investments.

17. Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder did not let an ADHD diagnosis slow down his dreams of becoming a musician.

67-year-old went on to become one of the most successful and recognisable figures in the music industry.

Wonder was signed to a record label at age eleven and was often considered a child prodigy when it came to playing instruments.

18. Jack Nicholson

Despite being diagnosed with ADHD, Nicholson has gone on to appear in some of the most recognisable roles in Hollywood.

He didn’t let ADHD slow him down, appearing in Batman, as well as other titles like A Few Good Men and The Shining.

19. Whoopi Goldberg

Goldberg is one of the most well-known faces in the world and has overcome a late dyslexia diagnosis to help understand some struggles she overcame at school.

The Sister Act star says she was labelled “dumb” in school, but also was diagnosed with dyslexia in her adult life.

She likened the misunderstandings around dyslexia to those of menstrual cramps in young people.

“It’s like in the early days when little girls complained about having cramps. It took … years for people to understand that menstrual cramps are a real thing, that PMS is a real chemical change in the body.”