ADHD celebrities can be a means of hope and inspiration for those struggling with ADHD. The need for positive role models and those that have gone before, showing others what is possible, couldn't be more important. ADHD can, otherwise, carry an unavoidable negative stigma that can crush children and adults.
When an individual begins to identify with words like "deficit" and "disorder," they internalize them and the negative stigma becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They think they can't, and so they don't. They think they'll never graduate or succeed in life, and so they don't.
If the label was all there was to it, then maybe it wouldn't be such a big deal, but unfortunately, the negative stigma has a profound influence on the individual diagnosed, impacting their relationships, school performance, emotional health, and future outlook on life. And some 11% of Americans between the ages of 4 and 17 carry this negativity as part of their identity.
But is the negative stigma of ADHD justified?
Our 35 plus years of experience caring for individuals with ADHD has proven to us that ADHD in no way must be correlated with failure in life. Every day in our clinics we have the joy of seeing children and adults with ADHD who are thriving. We actually believe ADHD can be a gift and a huge asset--that's why we call it FastBraiin.
But don't just take our word for it, be inspired by checking out these 21 ADHD celebrities who have found a way to overcome their ADHD and thrive with it. These celebrities run the gamut of some of the world's best athletes, musicians, actors, TV personalities, scientists, and businessmen. Some even claim their success is directly tied to their ADHD condition, and wouldn't give up being "FastBraiin" even if they had the opportunity to do so.
ADHD Celebrity #1: Justin Timberlake
Timberlake is a wildly successful singer, songwriter, actor, and producer. Time Magazine has twice named him one of the world's 100 most influential people. He has won 9 Grammies, 3 Brit Awards, 7 Billboard Awards, and 4 Emmies. He has both ADHD and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and though he admits it's been a challenge, he has found a way to rise above it.
ADHD Celebrity #2: Woody Harrelson
Harrelson is an actor and activist. Many know him for his acting in the highly successful and Emmy award-winning work in the 80's TV show Cheers. This would soon propel him into the celebrity world as a movie star in several hit movies like White Men Can't Jump, Kingpin, Hunger Games, and The People v. Harry Flint. Harrelson has also been an outspoken activist for the Environment. His ADHD has not stopped him from becoming one of the most prolific actors of our time.
ADHD Celebrity #3: Simone Biles
Olympic legend with 5 medals at Rio. Simon Biles was accused of doping in sports due to her medication which brought her ADHD into the media. Her response in standing up for ADHD and those who have it showed great dignity and class. She boldly announced, "I have ADHD and I have taken medication for it since I was a kid. . . Having ADHD and taking medication for it is nothing to be ashamed of."
ADHD Celebrity #4: Howie Mandel
Mandel is a comedian, actor, television host, and voice actor. He saw early success in stand-up comedy and became popular as host of the NBC show "Deal or No Deal," and later judge on "America's Got Talent." Mandel has always struggled with mental issues, including both ADHD and mysophobia (an irrational fear of germs), but has learned how to channel his strengths and overcome his weaknesses.
He is unashamed of his condition and supports the "ADHD is real" campaign, "I’m involved in the Adult ADHD Is Real campaign because I want adults to know that it’s never too late to seek help for ADHD. I hope that sharing my story encourages people to seek help. I didn’t let ADHD prevent me from achieving my goals and neither should anyone else."
ADHD Celebrity #5: Michael Jordan
The greatest basketball player of all-time. Nothing more needs to be said, except that certainly ADHD couldn't hold him back, and may have even helped him on the court.
ADHD Celebrity #6: Dean Kamen
Dean Kamen may be famous for inventing the Segway, but he's also got a host of other inventions under his belt. Some are "the wearable AutoSyringe that delivers accurate doses of medication 24/7, the portable dialysis machine, the stair-climbing iBOT wheelchair, a low-cost water filter for under-developed countries, the Stirling hybrid automobile engine that also produces electricity." Though a college dropout, he's now a multimillionaire owning 440 US and foreign patents.
Kamen overcame both his ADHD and dyslexia to become one of the world's greatest inventors. Some even place him in the same category with Edison, Einstein and Steve Jobs as those who shift the course of the history.
ADHD Celebrity #7: David Blaine
David Blaine has overcome ADHD to become one of the world's most popular illusionists and endurance artists. He regularly holds the world spellbound with seemingly "supernatural" feats of endurance, whether holding his breath for over 17 minutes, being frozen in a block of ice, or having a million volts of electricity sent through his body. He has completely revolutionized the way magic and illusion is performed and constantly stretches the boundaries of what people believe is possible.
ADHD Celebrity #8: Will Smith
*photo: Gage Skidmore
Will Smith is one of the most successful actors of all time. In 2007 Newsweek called him "the most powerful actor in Hollywood," with four Grammy Award wins and seven Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations combined. Forbes ranked him as the most "bankable star" worldwide. Smith has also been a successful rapper and producer. Although he has never officially been diagnosed with ADHD, Smith believes he has it.
ADHD Celebrity #9: Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey, the comedian and actor, has become a household name with four Golden Globe nominations and two wins. Allowing his ADHD to propel him with endless creativity and humor, he redefined the lines of comedy and acting. Carrey by no means made it to fame easily, but his passion and perseverance paid off in the end. He is truly someone who wasn't afraid to let their ADHD shine, and people have loved him for it.
ADHD Celebrity #10: Sir Richard Branson
Branson is an entrepreneur, adventurer, and philanthropist. Never letting his ADHD get him down, he has learned to use it to his advantage. Starting his own magazine at the age of 16, he would go on to found the virgin group and control over 400 companies.
ADHD is tied to risk-taking and an entrepreneur spirit, and if channeled well, can accomplish what others only dream about. When asked why he takes on such challenges, he replied, "My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them ... from the perspective of wanting to live life to the full, I felt that I had to attempt it."
ADHD Celebrity #11: Walt Disney
Walt Disney is a world-famous illustrator, cartoonist, voice actor, movie producer, and businessman. He fought through his ADHD to build his own entertainment empire and to forever transform the landscape of cartoons.
ADHD Celebrity #12: David Neeleman
Neeleman is a successful entrepreneur and founder of JetBlue Airways. His ADHD is both a weakness and a strength. He's been quoted saying, "I have an easier time planning a 20-aircraft fleet than I do paying the light bill." He credits ADHD as an asset for his success, refusing medication because he felt like it dampened this "gift."
Putting it in his own words, he says, "In the midst of all the chaos in your mind, and all of the disorganization, and all the trouble getting started, and procrastination, your brain just thinks a little bit differently," he says. "And you can come up with things."
ADHD Celebrity #13: Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps has blown out of the water all swimming records, holding 28 medals and becoming "the most decorated Olympian of all time." Once he finished first in eight events, and holds numerous world records. At nine years old Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD and told by his teachers that he could never focus on anything. Focus he could, and with the help of his parents and coaches, Phelps went on to achieve the impossible.
ADHD Celebrity #14: Cammi Granato
Granto led the USA as captain of the hockey team to a gold medal in Nagano, Japan in the 1998 Olympics. She believes, in large measure, that she was able to do so because of her ADHD.
ADHD Celebrity #15: Ty Pennington
Ty is famous for the show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. He is unashamed of the condition, has figured out how to excel with it, and desires to help others affected by ADHD.
ADHD Celebrity #16: Adam Levine
Adam Levine has left an undeniable influence on the pop music scene as the primary songwriter and guitar player for Maroon 5. He is also a celebrity for his role as a coach on the hit NBC show "The Voice." Levine speaks openly about his ADHD, about his struggles as a kid, and how he had to fight hard to overcome his weaknesses. When asked what he would tell others with ADHD , he responded, "I would also remind young adults and adults that ADHD isn’t a bad thing and that they shouldn’t feel any different than kids without ADHD. Always remember there are others going through the same thing."
ADHD Celebrity #17: Channing Tatum
Channing has struggled with ADHD but has become a very successful actor and dancer. ADHD for him may cause him to go about learning in a different way, but that has no bearing on his intelligence. He says, "I read so slow. If I have a script I’m going to read it five times slower than any other actor, but I’ll be able to tell you everything in it. It kills me that there are standardized tests geared towards just one kind of child."
ADHD Celebrity #18: Greg Lemond
Greg Lemond suffered the effects of ADHD when very young. He had trouble with grades, trouble staying out of trouble, and developed a low self-esteem. He didn't let this stop him, however, and became passionate in life, believing he had his own set of intelligence, even if it's not what the school system was rewarding him for.
His ADHD led him to explore the benefits of intense exercise, which later propelled him into a career in cycling. He went on to win the world championships twice and the Tour De France three times.
ADHD Celebrity #19: Audra McDonald
Audra is a singer and actress. She has won six Tony Awards, which is more than any other performer. Upon her reception of the award, she acknowledged ADHD in some part as the reason why she has been so successful. She said, “I want to thank my mom and dad up in heaven for disobeying the doctor’s orders and not medicating their hyperactive daughter and finding out what she’s into instead.”
ADHD Celebrity #20: Pete Rose
Pete Rose is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He "won three World Series, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player Award, two Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year Award, and 17 All-Star appearances at five different positions."
Rose unveils his lifelong struggle with ADHD in his book My Prison Without Bars. His story is one of struggle and triumph, with his ADHD helping on the field but hurting him off the field. Many ADHD individuals are risk takers and thrill seekers, and Rose found himself caught up in the thrill of gambling. He points to ADHD not as an excuse, but as an explanation for a lot of his life.
ADHD Celebrity #21: Dr. Jim Poole
Okay, he may only be a local celebrity here in the Raleigh, NC area, but to countless kids and families, Dr. Poole is more than a celebrity--He's a life saver.
Dr. Poole would be the first to tell you, unashamedly, that he has ADHD. Actually, he'd probably never say that because he only now refers to it as "FastBraiin." He has surely found a way to leverage his ADHD for the better, becoming a highly successful pediatrician, tennis player, businessman, and most of all, servant to the ADHD community. FastBraiin is the culmination of his life's work and passion in helping others with ADHD.
ADHD Celebrities in History
The diagnosis of ADHD is only a recent development, but people assume, like Dr. Hallowell believes, that ADHD and its symptoms have been around for thousands of years. This had led some to put forward Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Winston Churchill, and Thomas Edison as a few potential candidates.
We hope this survey of past and present successful individuals who have ADHD has inspired you. That's the ultimate goal here, not just that you would find out some interesting facts about celebrities. We want these stories and lives to inspire you, to give you a greater sense of hope, and for you to know you are not alone on this journey. There have been many others that have wrestled through similar variables and through the struggle have come out the better for it.
So here's the real question:
Who Are You Going To Be?
Through perseverance and hard work, you can reach well beyond what you thought possible. Will you ever become a celebrity? Probably not, and that's okay! Don't set your goal on becoming a celebrity. What will fulfill you, and this is the way many celebrities would respond, is not the fame and money, but the opportunity to pursue their dreams, explore their creativity, and fulfill their unique potential.
What is it that you are passionate about and want to accomplish in life? Don't let ADHD hold you back. Get after it!
A great first step is to apply our 21 Strategies to Thrive With ADHD, where we give you our best practical tips to overcoming and optimizing your ADHD.