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11 Celebrities Who Overcame Dyslexia

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On Monday, molecular biologists Carol Greider and Elizabeth Blackburn became the first two women to share the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Greider also joined Pierre Curie and Archer Martin among the handful of individuals with dyslexia who have won a Nobel Prize. In honor of Greider's accomplishment and National Dyslexic Awareness Month, here's a brief background on dyslexia and 11 other dyslexic celebrities.

Dyslexia in Brief

According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is a language-based learning disability (or difference, if you prefer) that may affect an individual's ability to read, write, spell, and pronounce words. It is the most common learning disability. While the effects of dyslexia range from mild to severe, an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the population has some of the symptoms of dyslexia. It's unclear what causes dyslexia, but imagery studies reveal that a dyslexic person's brain develops differently than someone without symptoms of dyslexia. Contrary to popular belief, people with dyslexia do not read "backwards," though many dyslexics do a variety of other interesting things, as you'll read below.

1. Henry Winkler

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With his greased hair, leather jacket, and jeans, Winkler was the epitome of cool during his decade-long run as Fonzie on Happy Days. If only Winkler, who was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was 35, knew how to ride the motorcycles that were as much a part of the Fonz's character as his signature two thumbs up. "One of the effects was being unable to make my brain understand how to coordinate the clutch, throttle and brake on a motorcycle," Winkler said of his dyslexia in 2008. "There was just no way I could figure it out, so I never got to ride that cool Harley-Davidson." Instead, the motorcycle was mounted on a wood base with wheels for all of Winkler's riding scenes. Winkler was ridiculed for his dyslexia as a child "“ his parents called him Dumb Dog "“ so it's no surprise that he's become an activist for others with dyslexia. Since 2003, he has published more than a dozen books about a fictional 10-year-old boy with dyslexia named Hank Zipzer. The books have sold more than 20 million copies.

2. Keira Knightley

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Knightley, who starred alongside fellow dyslexic Orlando Bloom in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, has her dyslexia to thank for jumpstarting her acting career. Well, sort of. Knightley took an interest in acting at a very young age, but struggled to learn to read. When she was six years old, her mother bribed her with a promise to get her an agent if she practiced reading every day during the summer. "She felt so guilty at having made a six-year-old daughter do this that she had to get me an agent at the end of it," Knightley recalled in 2003. Bizarrely, Knightley's former school headmaster questioned the veracity of her claims that she was dyslexic in 2004, to which Knightley replied, "Of all the things you could lie about, I'm not quite sure you would lie about that one."

3. Ingvar Kamprad

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Ever wondered why IKEA products are named after Swedish places and things? Kamprad, the company's wealthy founder, is dyslexic, and thought it would be easier to remember product names that way. The acronym IKEA is made up of the initials of his name, the family farm where he was born (Elmtaryd), and the nearby village of Agunnaryd.

4. Whoopi Goldberg

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Goldberg dropped out of high school, became addicted to drugs, married her drug counselor, and had a child by the time she was 19. She wouldn't be diagnosed with dyslexia until years later. "You don't want to be retarded all your life," Goldberg told Ebony magazine in 1991. "I was retarded for a good part of mine, according to all the paperwork, and I just couldn't handle it." Goldberg eventually got her life on track, catching her big break when Steven Spielberg, a dyslexic himself, cast her in The Color Purple. "I knew I wasn't stupid, and I knew I wasn't dumb," Goldberg said in 1994. ""¦If you read to me, I could tell you everything that you read. They didn't know what it was."

5. Bruce Jenner

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Jenner, who won a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics and was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, has often described his dyslexia as his greatest gift. "If I hadn't been dyslexic, I wouldn't have won the Games because it made me special, being dyslexic," he said in 2004. "If I would have been average like everybody else, I wouldn't have needed sports at a young age."

"I always tell dyslexic kids, 'You may think of this as a big problem now. But it may be your greatest gift. It makes you special. Now your job is to find out what you're good at and go for it.'"

Jenner has helped preach this message through his role as a motivational speaker and as the host of Demystifying Dyslexia, a documentary that describes modern learning tools for people with dyslexia.

6. Alyssa Milano

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Milano, who will be starring in the upcoming ABC comedy Romantically Challenged, copes with her dyslexia on the big stage by following a tip she received from the late British actor Sir John Gielgud. Milano starred alongside Gielgud in the made-for-TV adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost in 1986. "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."

7. Ozzy Osbourne

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MTV's hit reality show The Osbournes was originally slated to have sub-titles because nobody could understand what Ozzy was saying. "Even I couldn't understand what the [expletive] I was talking about on television," Osbourne told The Daily Telegraph. Osbourne grew up a severe dyslexic and dropped out of high school, turning to music, drugs, and alcohol to occupy his mind and time. During a 2007 interview with the London Evening Standard, Osbourne explained why he's never read the Bible. "Have you ever tried to read that thing? I wouldn't have wanted to be alive in those days, when Adam lived to be, like, 1,000 years old. I can't do it, being dyslexic. By the time I finished page one, I'd be dead."

8. Cher

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Cher dropped out of high school before launching her successful career and wasn't diagnosed as dyslexic until she was 30. The diagnosis came only after she arranged medical tests for her daughter, who was struggling in elementary school. "I'm a terrible reader," Cher said in 1985. "I don't write letters. Numbers and I have absolutely no relationship. I can dial a phone OK, as long as it's not long-distance. I write the first letter of the word, and my mind races to the last letter. I see words and jumble them together. I see great billboards, billboards no one has ever invented."

9. Jay Leno

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The former host of The Tonight Show attributed the drive and perseverance he needed to succeed in comedy to his dyslexia. Leno, who received poor grades throughout elementary school, has said that one of his favorite career moments was calling up his fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Simon, 40 years after getting a C- on a paper about astronaut John Glenn and asking him to watch him interview Glenn. "I had Glenn sign a thing for Mr. Simon and I got my paper upgraded from a C- to an A," said Leno, who received a B.A. in speech therapy from Emerson University.

10. Agatha Christie

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A number of accomplished writers are believed to have had dyslexia, including Hans Christian Anderson, Lewis Carroll, W.B. Yeats, and Christie, the British mystery author and playwright. "I, myself, was always recognized...as the "˜slow one' in the family," Christie reportedly once said. "It was quite true, and I knew it and accepted it. Writing and spelling were always terribly difficult for me. My letters were without originality. I was...an extraordinarily bad speller and have remained so until this day."

11. Charles Schwab

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Charles Schwab prefers oral communication to the written word, which is perhaps one of the reasons his firm's marketing campaign suggests that you "Talk to Chuck" rather than write to him. Schwab, who wasn't officially diagnosed with dyslexia until he was 40, graduated with a degree in economics from Stanford in 1959. "The first two years [at Stanford] I struggled because there were so many subjects," said Schwab, who read the comic-book versions of classic books to get by. "I flunked English twice. They just passed me through the third time. I got an F in French. I had a tough enough time with the first language. When I came out of public high school I thought I could charm my teachers. I found out in college I couldn't." Schwab persevered and, in 1971, founded the brokerage firm that still bears his name.
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Indeed, this list could have gone to 100. Share your stories of other famous people, friends, or family members living with dyslexia—or of living with dyslexia yourself—in the comments.

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Revisit Your Teen Years With Vintage Sweet Valley High Editions
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The '80s and '90s were a special time to be a reading-obsessed child. Young adult series like The Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High were in their prime (and spawning plenty of spinoffs and blatant knockoffs), with numerous books a year—Sweet Valley High creator Francine Pascal published 11 books in her series in 1984 alone.

You can't find original Sweet Valley High books on the shelves anymore (unless you want to read the tweaked re-release versions published in 2008), but fans of Jessica and Elizabeth no longer have to trawl eBay looking for nostalgic editions of their favorite installments of the series. Always Fits, a website that sells gifts it describes as “nostalgic, feminine, feminist and wonderful,” has tracked down as many vintage teen series from the '80s and '90s as it can, including a number of Sweet Valley High books.

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The collection of books was sourced by the Always Fits team from vintage shops and thrift stores, and covers editions released between 1983 and 1994 (the series ran until 2003). While you can’t get a shiny new copy of books like Double Love, you can pretend that the slightly worn editions have been sitting on the bookshelf of your childhood bedroom all along.

Each of the Sweet Valley High books comes with an enamel pin inspired by the cover for one of the series's classic titles, Secrets. Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose which installment you want—you’ll have to content yourself with a mystery pick, meaning that you may get In Love Again instead of Two-Boy Weekend. Hopefully you’re not trying to fill in that one hole from your childhood collection. (You may not be able to get Kidnapped by the Cult!, but it appears that Crash Landing!, with its amazingly ridiculous paralysis storyline, is available.)

The Sweet Valley High book-and-pin set is $18, or you can get a three-pack of random '80s books for the same price.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Love Connection
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Between September 19, 1983 and July 1, 1994, Chuck Woolery—who had been the original host of Wheel of Fortune back in 1975—hosted the syndicated, technologically advanced dating show Love Connection. (The show was briefly revived in 1998-1999, with Pat Bullard as host.) The premise featured either a single man or single woman who would watch audition tapes of three potential mates discussing what they look for in a significant other, and then pick one for a date. The producers would foot the bill, shelling out $75 for the blind date, which wasn’t taped. The one rule was that between the end of the date and when the couple appeared on the show together, they were not allowed to communicate—so as not to spoil the next phase.

A couple of weeks after the date, the guest would sit with Woolery in front of a studio audience and tell everybody about the date. The audience would vote on the three contestants, and if the audience agreed with the guest’s choice, Love Connection would offer to pay for a second date.

The show became known for its candor: Couples would sometimes go into explicit detail about their dates or even insult one another’s looks. Sometimes the dates were successful enough to lead to marriage and babies, and the show was so popular that by 1992, the video library had accrued more than 30,000 tapes “of people spilling their guts in five-minutes snippets.”

In 2017, Fox rebooted Love Connection with Andy Cohen at the helm; the second season started airing in May. But here are a few things you might not have known about the dating series that started it all.

1. AN AD FOR A VIDEO DATING SERVICE INSPIRED THE SHOW.

According to a 1986 People Magazine article, the idea for Love Connection came about when creator Eric Lieber spied an ad for a video dating service and wanted to cash in on the “countless desperate singles out there,” as the article states. “Everyone thinks of himself as a great judge of character and likes to put in two cents,” Lieber said. “There’s a little yenta in all of us.”

2. CONTESTANTS WERE GIVEN SOMETHING CALLED A PALIO SCORE.

Staff members would interview potential contestants and rate them on a PALIO score, which stands for personality, appearance, lifestyle, intelligence, and occupation. Depending on the results, the staff would rank the potential guests as either selectors or selectees.

3. IN 1987, THE FIRST OF MANY LOVE CONNECTION BABIES WAS BORN.

John Schultz and Kathleen Van Diggelen met on a Love Connection date, which didn’t end up airing. “They said, ‘John, she’s so flat, if you can’t rip her up on the set, we can’t use you,’” he told People in 1988. “I said, ‘I can’t do that.’” However, they got married on an episode of Hollywood Squares. As the article stated, “Their son, Zachary, became the first baby born to a Love Connection-mated couple.”

4. IT LED TO OTHER DATING SHOWS, LIKE THE BACHELOR.

Mike Fleiss not only created The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but he’s also responsible for reviving Love Connection. “I always had a soft spot for that show,” Fleiss told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. He said he was friends with Lieber and that the show inspired him to “venture into the romance TV space.” “I remember it being simple and effective,” he said about the original Love Connection. “And I remember wanting to find out what happened on those dates, the he said-she said of it all. It was intriguing.”

5. A FUTURE ACTOR FROM THE SOPRANOS WAS A CONTESTANT.

Lou Martini Jr., then known as Louis Azzara, became a contestant on the show during the late 1980s. He and his date, Angela, hit it off so well that they couldn’t keep their hands off one another during the show. Martini famously talked about her “private parts,” and she referred to him as “the man of my dreams.” The relationship didn’t last long, though. “I had just moved to LA and was not ready to commit to anything long-term," Martini commented under the YouTube clip. "The show was pushing me to ask her to marry me on the show!" If Martini looks familiar it’s because he went on to play Anthony Infante, Johnny Sack’s brother-in-law, on four episodes of season six of The Sopranos.

6. BEFORE THE SHOW WENT OFF THE AIR, A LOT OF CONTESTANTS GOT MARRIED.

During the same Entertainment Weekly interview, the magazine asked Woolery what the show’s “love stats” were, and he responded with 29 marriages, eight engagements, and 15 children, which wasn’t bad considering 2120 episodes had aired during its entire run. “When you think that it’s someone in our office putting people together through questionnaires and tapes, it’s incredible that one couple got married, much less 29,” he said.

7. CHUCK WOOLERY WAS AGAINST FEATURING SAME SEX COUPLES.

In a 1993 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the interviewer asked him “Would you ever have gay couples on Love Connection?” Woolery said no. “You think it would work if a guy sat down and I said, ‘Well, so where did you meet and so and so?’ then I get to the end of the date and say, ‘Did you kiss?’ Give me a break,” he said. “Do you think America by and large is gonna identify with that? I don’t think that works at all.” What a difference a quarter-century makes. Andy Cohen, who is openly gay, asked Fox if it would be okay to feature gay singles on the new edition of Love Connection. Fox immediately agreed.

8. ERIC LIEBER LIKED THE SHOW’S “HONEST EMOTIONS.”

When asked about the show's winning formula, Lieber once said: “The show succeeds because we believe in honest emotions. And, admit it—we’re all a little voyeuristic and enjoy peeking into someone else’s life.”

9. IN LIVING COLOR DID A HILARIOUS PARODY OF THE SHOW.

In the first sketch during In Living Color's pilot—which aired April 15, 1990—Jim Carrey played Woolery in a Love Connection parody. Robin Givens (played by Kim Coles) went on a date with Mike Tyson (Keenan Ivory Wayans) and ended up marrying him during the date. (As we know from history, the real-life marriage didn’t go so well.) The audience had to vote for three men: Tyson, John Kennedy Jr., and, um, Donald Trump. Tyson won with 41 percent of the vote and Trump came in second with 34 percent.

10. A PSYCHOLOGIST THOUGHT THE SHOW HAD A “MAGICAL HOPEFULNESS” QUALITY.

In 1986, People Magazine interviewed psychologist and teacher Dr. Richard Buck about why people were attracted to Love Connection. “Combine the fantasy of finding the perfect person with the instant gratification of being on TV, and the two are a powerful lure,” he said. “There’s a magical hopefulness to the show.”

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