Chicken Soup for the Sole: The Marlee Matlin Story

Although there are quite a few deaf actors working today, chances are the most successful and well-known is Marlee Matlin. Not only is she the youngest person to ever won the “Best Actress” Academy Award (at the tender age of 21,) she is is also the only deaf actor ever to win an Oscar. It would be pretty amazing if all she had overcome in her life was the loss of her hearing at 18 months old, but if you keep reading, you’ll see that she’s met challenge after challenge head on, time and time again.

Deaf Women Can Act

It’d be understandable if you thought that acting was one of the very few professions that would be extremely difficult for a deaf person to make a mark in. Before Marlee, you’d be right: no deaf actor or actress had ever been nominated for an Academy Award. That all changed in 1986, when her role as “Sarah”, a custodian at a school for the deaf in New England. Her co-star in “Children” was William Hurt, who she was dating in real life, and as revealed in her book “I’ll Scream Later,” that relationship, combined with childhood sexual abuse, led to drug and alcohol problems. Incredibly, at the height of her success, Matlin found herself in rehab. After beating the addiction, she continued to find success as an actress in movies, Broadway, and T.V. Although her relationship with William Hurt was rife with physical and emotional abuse, she managed to forgive him and move on with her life, despite the fact that he never apologized to her.

Deaf Women Can Dance, Too

Matlin is rarely seen not working in entertainment, and even after 25 years she still manages to surprise people. After Matlin appeared on Dancing With the Stars in 2015, she remarked that “It must have been fascinating for America to watch a deaf woman dancing, thinking, ‘How does she do this without hearing the music?’ ” Of course, there was a reasonable explanation (she concentrated on learning the steps and credited her partner for leading her through the dances), but it’s yet another example of Matlin proving to the world that she can defy expectations day after day!

My name is Jessica Cox, and most of all I admire people who have overcome incredible obstacles. If you’re interested in having me speak at your next convention, meeting, or faith-based gathering, call me at 520-505-1359 or contact me on my website.