Celebs Who Beat the Odds— And Came Out On Top

From OCD to dyslexia to struggles with their weight, these stars didn't let personal setbacks keep them from their dreams

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Marlee Matlin

"I have always resisted putting limitations on myself, both professionally and personally," the Academy Award winner has said. Matlin is the only deaf actress to win the prestigious award for best leading lady.



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Catherine Zeta Jones

The actress entered a private facility last year for her strugglse with bipolar II disorder.  The stress from husband Michael Douglas’ battle with cancer pushed the leading lady over the edge—but a few days in rehab hasn’t left a mark on her career.  Her musical comedy with Tom Cruise, Rock of Ages, is out later this year.



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Tracey Gold

Gold’s battle with anorexia began while playing Carol Seever on the 1980’s sitcom Growing Pains. Gold was the first star to openly admit to having an eating disorder. “I really believe that I got sick and tired of being sick,” she told People. Now, the mother of 4 is the driving force behind Lifetime’s Starving Secrets, where she helps women confront the reality of their disease.

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Emily Blunt

Did you know the British startlet overcame a stutter? “I'm actually on the board for the American Institute for Stuttering,” she told nymag.com. “They're using revolutionary techniques to help people get through this really anguished struggle of having a stutter. I wish to God I'd known about them as a kid, because I maybe would have avoided eight to nine years of it not being an easy time.”



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Danny Glover

This Lethal Weapon actor suffered from epilepsy as a teen and young adult, but turned to self-hypnosis to keep his seizures under control.



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Stevie Wonder

He’s been blind since birth, so how did this multi-instrumental singer-songwriter, get signed to Motown Records at the tender age of 11? Hard work and determination. Wonder is still writing and performing hits to this day.



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Bruce Willis

"I think my sense of humor derived from the fact that I did stutter. As if, 'Well, yeah, I stutter, but if I can make you laugh, maybe you won’t be so aware of it,'" the actor has said.



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Tom Cruise

Cruise told the Spanish magazine XL Semanal that he was functionally illiterate when he graduated from school in 1980, but learned to read perfectly as an adult through Scientology technology.



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Whoopi Goldberg

Like many of her peers, Goldberg struggled with dyslexia as a child, but didn't get a clear diagnosis until well into adulthood.  Despite her difficulties in school, the actress became one of the most succesful entertainers of her generation.



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"I never read in school. I got really bad grades, D's and F's and C's in some classes,” Cher has said of her life before she was diagnosed as dyslexic. “In the second week of the 11th grade, I just quit.” That hasn’t stopped her from acheiving success: She's won multiple awards including an Academy Award, three Golden Globes and a Grammy.



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Jessica Alba

"I used to unplug every single appliance in my house. Or I'd double-check every door in my house to make sure it was locked at night," Alba told CosmoGirl about her daily struggles with OCD. “It was like a panic come over me and I had to do something, and once I did it, I was OK.”  She credits her obsession with perfectionism with helping her nail some of Hollywood's most coveted roles.



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Niki Taylor

In 2001 the supermodel was critically injured in car crash in Atlanta, Georgia. Taylor spend almost three months in the intensive care unit with massive internal injuries.  She bounced back--and has been seen hosting the reality show competition, Make Me a Supermodel, and was a participant in season four of  Celebrity Apprentice.



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Elton John

The pop superstar has battled alcohol and drug addictions throughout his career.  In an interview with Larry King in 2002, the talk show host asked John if he knew of Diana, Princess of Wales eating disorder. He replied, “Yes. We were both bulimic,” openly admitting his own battle with the disorder, too.



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Jennifer Hudson

The former American Idol contestant has struggled with her image for quite some time. "I had everyone on the planet tell me that I needed to look a certain way or be a specific size if I wanted to make it as a singer,” Hudson told USA Today. “I have been rejected from more jobs than the ones I've gotten simply because of my appearance.” Now, with a new body and an Oscar on her mantle, she's having the last laugh.



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Halle Berry

Berry was diagnosed with diabetes after nearly collapsing on set. "Diabetes caught me completely off guard," she said.  Berry manages the disease with regular insulin shots.



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First Published January 10, 2012

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