For decades multi-talented entertainer Cher has dazzled the world with colorful stage acts, a unique contralto voice, and blockbuster movies.
Many of her fans don’t realize what a struggle it is for Cher to read the scripts for those movies.
Cher, born Cherilyn Sarkisian, had an incredibly hard time as a child in school.
Unable to make out words, she avoided any situation that called for reading. She’s said that after she looks at the first letter of a word, her brain just races to the last letter, and then somehow all of the letters become jumbled up together.
Her grade cards were filled with Fs and Ds, and teachers always wrote that she was not living up to her potential.
What her teachers didn’t know is that Cher suffers from dyslexia.
Although first identified in the 1880s as “Congenital Word Blindness,” dyslexia was widely considered to be a result of poor teaching until the 1980s. The brain mechanisms behind the disorder are still not understood.
When Cher was in elementary school in the 50s, her parents and teachers simply thought she was not trying, or, worse, just being stubbornly rebellious.
In fact, she had to learn almost everything in school by listening. She was bound to fail any class that was based primarily on silent, individual, reading.
Despite a frequent lack of early academic success, Cher looked forward to a future as a performer from a very young age. In fifth grade, she organized and choreographed a group of girls to present the musical Oklahoma! to their teacher and the class.
High school proved to be too much for Cher. At age 16, at the end of the second week of her junior year, she left her studies and determined to pursue an acting career.
The teenager met Sonny Bono, 11 years her senior, soon after quitting school. At the time, he was working for record producer Phil Spector. Bono convinced Spector to hire Cher as a backup singer. After Cher was 18, she and Bono began dating.
They set out to make Cher famous. First, Cher sang solo, while Bono wrote and produced the songs. When that didn’t work, they recorded together under the stage names of Caesar and Cleo. At last, they tried their real names, Sonny and Cher, releasing an album that included “I Got You Babe.”
They had a hit.
A string of other hits followed, and a variety show on TV.
Audiences watched the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour as much for the costumes as the performances. The couple wore outrageous matching outfits on each episode. After their daughter Chastity (now son Chaz) was born, she often joined them on the show, also in matching attire.
Cher’s dyslexia wasn’t properly diagnosed until Chastity began having difficulty in school. Cher arranged for medical testing for Chastity, then ended up being tested and diagnosed alongside her child.
At last, at age 30, she was able to understand why she has such a struggle with written words.
The couple divorced, and the show went off the air. It looked like Cher’s star had faded.
A brief marriage to Greg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band resulted in the birth of son Elijah.
In 1985, Cher decided to return to acting. She auditioned for and received a leading part in the Broadway play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.
Her work was critically acclaimed and soon led to other roles.
Since then, she has been a part of several successful movies, and won many awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actress in Moonstruck.
Cher reports that it is difficult for her to first read a script, but she just goes at it slowly. She has no trouble with memorizing the words once she’s read them.
It has been a long journey from those bad grade school report cards to being an award winning actress and the only singer to have had #1 billboard hits in six different decades.
Cher did not allow dyslexia to stand in the way of her success.
She is one celebrity who beat the odds.
Click here to read the full list of celebrities who Beat The Odds on their way to success.
Enjoy this feel-good clip of Cher performing with the Jackson 5 in 1975. She and Michael seem to be having such a great time!