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The dyslexia factor

by Dan Slipper

Kara Tointon is an actress best known for her role as Dawn in EastEnders. She also has dyslexia and is presenting Don't Call Me Stupid, a documentary on BBC Three exploring how it has affected her life.
Kara Tointon
"My friends have always known I've had a bit of trouble with spelling and reading and I think having that support and encouragement is the most important aspect of being dyslexic," says Kara.
She is just one of many people with dyslexia who have become very successful in their chosen fields.

Here are ten other faces you'll recognise.

Tom Cruise

Actor Tom Cruise
"Being dyslexic, I had to train myself to focus my attention. I became very visual and learned how to create mental images in order to comprehend what I read."

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali
"As a high school student many of my teachers labelled me dumb. I could barely read my textbooks."

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg
"When I was a kid they didn’t call it dyslexia. They called it... you know, you were slow or retarded or whatever."

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie
"Writing and spelling were always terribly difficult for me. My letters were without originality. I extraordinarily bad speller and have remained so."

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill
"I was, on the whole, considerably discouraged by my school days. It was not pleasant to feel oneself so completely outclassed and left behind at the beginning of the race."

Richard Branson

Richard Branson
"Being dyslexic can actually help in the outside world. I see some things clearer than other people do because I have to simplify things to help me and that has helped others."

Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom
"I fell in love with drama at school, where I struggled with other lessons because of my dyslexia."

Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver
"It was with great regret that I didn’t do better at school. People just thought I was thick. It was a struggle. I never really understood dyslexia and who could bring out my strengths."


"I never read in school. I got really bad grades – Ds and Fs and Cs in some classes and As and Bs 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 I was not living up to my potential."

Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger
"I performed poorly at school and was perceived as stupid because of my dyslexia. I still have trouble reading. I have to concentrate very hard at going left to right, left to right, otherwise my eye just wanders to the bottom of the page."

These quotes got us thinking about why so many dyslexic people excel in their chosen fields seemingly against the odds. We asked The British Dyslexia Association for their view and received a fascinating response:

"It is not surprising that many of these high achieving celebrities and well known faces are dyslexic. Although dyslexia affects an individual's ability to master skills such as reading, spelling and writing, many compensate for this with outstanding creative or oral skills and innovative thinking."

"Many dyslexic individuals are incredibly determined after facing a number of frustrations and challenges. Once they find their natural talent and overcome barriers many excel in their field."

"Research has shown that dyslexic people make up almost 20% of the entrepreneurial population in the UK, with the US figure being even higher at 35%."
Don't Call Me Stupid is on BBC Three on Thursday 11 November at 21.00 and available on BBC iPlayer for a further seven days.
Thanks to,,, and for the quotes.

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