Famous dyslexics

At Helen Arkell we believe that people with dyslexia have a lot to offer the world. If you
learn to believe in yourself, anything is possible, and you can succeed on your own terms.
Some dyslexics who have succeeded and are famous are shown here but there are many
less famous dyslexics who have succeeded across many sectors, especially
creative industries.

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Astronomer, space scientist and co-producer of the long running TV programme The Sky at Night with Chris Lintott. Maggie Aderin-Pocock is a research fellow in UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies and an Honorary Research Associate in UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Orlando Bloom

Hollywood actor best known for his starring roles in Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings. When he was discovered as dyslexic at school his mother encouraged him to take art and drama classes. Bloom continued on to appear in many Hollywood hits and made his Broadway stage debut as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet in August 2013 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson is one of the most famous dyslexics in the world and is happy to share is story. Richard struggled in school and dropped out at age 16 – a decision that ultimately led to the creation of Virgin Records. His entrepreneurial projects started in the music industry and expanded into other sectors. He is now estimated to be worth over $5.7 billion. Branson is also known for his adventurous spirit and sporting achievements, including crossing oceans in a hot air balloon and becoming the third oldest person to fly to space at the age of 70.

Tom Cruise

Blockbuster action film actor Cruise was diagnosed with Dyslexia aged seven but that didn’t stop him. ‘I’d try to concentrate on what I was reading, then I’d get to the end of the page and have very little memory of anything I’d read’. He eventually adopted unique techniques to learn his lines and went on to be a multi award winning Hollywood star!

Leonardo da Vinci

Primarily a painter accomplishing the famous Mona Lisa, however Da Vinci was skilled in many other areas including mathematics, sculpting and as an inventor.

Famous dyslexic Leonardo Da Vinci

Jim Carrey

The two-time Golden Globe-winner rose to fame as a cast member of the Fox sketch comedy In Living Color. Leading roles in Ace Ventura, Dumb & Dumber and The Mask established him as a bankable comedy actor.

Walt Disney

An American icon who built the Disney Empire with his brother and is responsible for the growth of animation production. The popular Disney Land Parks have since been developed globally.

Albert Einstein

One of the most influential physicists in history who developed the laws of relativity and shaped the ways we think of the world today.

Famous dyslexic Albert Einstein

Sally Gardner

English children’s writer and illustrator. She won both the Costa Children’s Book Award and the Carnegie Medal for Maggot Moon. Sally says, ‘I strongly believe that dyslexia is like a Rubik’s Cube: it takes time to work out how to deal with it but once you do, it can be the most wonderful gift.’

Whoopi Goldberg

Comedian, political activist but more recently talk show host. Whoopi is one of a handful of people to win an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony and an Emmy.

John F Kennedy, George Washington and George W Bush

All of these Presidents of the United States of America were believed to be dyslexic.

Famous dyslexic John F Kennedy
Famous dyslexic George W Bush

Keira Knightley

Keira gained widespread recognition in 2002 after co-starring in the film Bend It Like Beckham and achieved international fame in 2003 after appearing as Elizabeth Swann in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. Since then, she has succeeded in many more world-renowned performances.

John Lennon

Lead singer of the Beatles in the 1960s and singer songwriter. Lennon found worldwide fame with The Beatles and had a hugely successful solo career.

Jamie Oliver

Professional chef, bookseller and TV personality, Jamie initially left school at 16 without any qualifications, however working his way up the kitchen ladder he rose quickly to head chef.

Theo Paphitis

Known for his entrepreneurial skills and his appearances on the TV series Dragons’ Den. In 2020, Paphitis was reported to have an estimated net worth of £290 million. He has made the majority of his fortune in the retail sector and is the former Chairman of Millwall Football Club. In 2024, Theo launched the Theo Paphitis Dyslexia Bursary to fund specific services provided by Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity and the British Dyslexia Association.

Famous dyslexics Theo Paphitis at Helen Arkell

Pablo Picasso

One of the most renowned artists of all time with his ability to paint unusual abstract art. Many believe it was his dyslexia that inspired his extraordinary painting ideas.

Guy Ritchie

The well-known filmmaker (and ex-husband of Madonna) was a school dropout without even attending film school, however he didn’t let that be an issue and through years of hard work broke onto the scene of major crime films.

Chris Robshaw

England Rugby Captain and Harlequins player, Robshaw has represented his country 38 times. Through his determination and hard work, he has proven to be a testament to young aspiring players.

Steven Spielberg

One of the most influential film personalities in the history of film, Steven Spielberg is perhaps Hollywood’s best-known director and one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. Winner of three Academy awards, numerous BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Emmy Awards… the list goes on!

Holly Willoughby

Television presenter, model and clothing designer Holly Willoughby is proud to be dyslexic. She demonstrates that despite the struggles of dyslexia, you can still be a professional in your field with application and hard work.

Dominic Wood

An English magician, entertainer and half of the presenting duo ‘Dick and Dom’ who specialise in children entertainment.

Hamza Yassin

A wildlife cameraman and presenter on children’s television who won BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2022 and spoke movingly about his dyslexia;

‘I think in 3D, I think in pictures, I have a photographic memory and that is all due to my dyslexia… I truly believe my dyslexia is my gift and I am the man I am now because of it.’

Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah was a writer, poet, actor and musician who, as well as entertaining us with his amazing poetry, championed people with dyslexia and the importance of enjoying reading.  He proved that having dyslexia does not stop a person from being great with words.

Video credit: The Literacy Trust.