“If you’re a young person being called weird or different, I’m here to tell you that your critics do not count. Their words will fade. You will not.” Why we love Justin Timberlake, Simone Biles, Adam Levine, and these other inspiring celebrities and famous people with ADHD.
In a July 2020 YouTube video titled "In Defense of Our Teachers," the Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer revealed his childhood diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as a way of explaining his poor academic performance and early exit from high school.
"I hate to break it to you, but I was a terrible student," Grohl says. "It was no fault of the Fairfax public school system, mind you; it did the best it could. I was just stubbornly disengaged, impeded by a raging case of ADD, and an insatiable desire to play music. Far from being a model student, I did my best to maintain focus but eventually left school half way through 11th grade to become a professional touring musician — not advised. I left behind countless missed opportunities."
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Sitting atop our list of famous people with ADHD is Simone Biles, the most decorated American gymnast ever and arguably the greatest American gymnast of all time. She’s won an astounding 19 World Champion and Olympic gold medals! She was also brave enough to come forth with sexual abuse allegations against alleged serial abuser Larry Nassar.
When hackers leaked confidential medical records about her use of prescription drugs, she said, according to ESPN, “I have ADHD and have taken medication for it since I was a child… having ADHD, and taking medication for it is nothing to be ashamed of nothing that I’m afraid to let people know.” Bravo for normalizing the condition, Simone!
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OCD and ADHD haven't stopped Justin Timberlake from "Bringing Sexy Back." While he doesn't often speak publicly about his conditions, the superstar recording artist and actor once shared his frustration with his diagnosis in an interview with collider.com, saying, “I have OCD mixed with ADD, you try living with that.”
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As lead singer of Maroon 5 and a vocal coach on the popular TV show The Voice, this adult with ADHD is thriving. Levine was diagnosed early and was able to manage his ADHD as a child. In adulthood, however, his symptoms became incapacitating at times. When recording music became difficult, Levine knew it was time to get help. Today, the rocker is very vocal about ADHD and reminds fans that they’re not alone in the ADHD struggle.
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Soul Train Award winner Solange began writing songs at age 9, joined Destiny’s Child at age 15, and is a fierce solo artist today. Born in 1986, she’s already had a long and enviable music career, with several #1 dance hits in the USA. She tells Respectability that she was diagnosed with ADHD twice — the first time, she didn’t believe it.
“The symptoms seem to apply to everyone around me in the industry. Loss of memory, starting something and not finishing it…” She tells Heath Central that "People think I'm high even when I'm sober," because of her high levels of energy and “sporadic speech.” She’s become an outspoken advocate for ADHD, particularly because of the low rates of diagnosis in black children and concerns about the school-to-prison pipeline.
Channing Tatum is now a household name, leading blockbusters like 21 Jump Street and The Vow. He’s won hearts across the nation with his classic looks, dance skills, and comedic chops. But it wasn’t always a primrose path. He’s spoken openly before about his difficult past, and now he confides his learning challenges — including ADHD, dyslexia, and medication — in an interview with New York Times’ style magazine. He told T magazine, “You get lumped in classes with kids with autism and Down syndrome, and you look around and say, ‘OK, so this is where I’m at.’ Or you get put in the typical classes and you say, ‘All right, I’m obviously not like these kids either.’ So you’re kind of nowhere. You’re just different.” He certainly didn’t let different stop him!
Through the Harry Potter movies, Emma Watson has grown before our eyes from a spunky 11-year-old to a mature, beautiful woman outspoken about her feminist views. Though she’s never talked about her condition, according to Alux, she’s been medicated for ADHD since she was a child. And she’s also been wildly successful: graduating from an Ivy League school, becoming Hermione Granger, and starring in several other feature films, as well as serving as a UN Goodwill ambassador.
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Diagnosed with ADHD at age 9, Michael Phelps went on to become the most decorated Olympian of all time, swimming his way to a record-breaking 23 gold medals. According to his mother, Debbie Phelps, swimming helped her son manage his symptoms from a young age by keeping him focused and disciplined.
Renowned journalist Lisa Ling got a sneaking suspicion that she might have ADHD during the filming of a recent ADHD–themed episode of “Our America With Lisa Ling.” Her reporting on the disorder compelled her to get an evaluation, and at age 40, she was diagnosed with adult ADHD. "My head is kind of spinning," she said in the episode after receiving her diagnosis. "But I feel a little bit of relief because, for so long, I've been fighting it and I've been so frustrated with this inability to focus."
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Soccer star Tim Howard recently became a World Cup hero after breaking the record for the most saves in a match (16), but it was not an easy road to international stardom. At a young age, Howard began displaying strange behaviors that included rituals and rhythmic tapping. At age 11, he was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, and Tourette’s syndrome. Though he still follows a ritualistic pattern in putting on his soccer gear, once he hits the field all his attention problems and compulsions melt away.
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This seven-time Grammy Award winning recording artist has found a way to make his ADHD work for him — through music. He’s stated that music serves as his ADHD therapy and helps him bring control to his thoughts while keeping his mind focused.
Astronaut Scott Kelly grew up in a time when ADHD wasn't a common diagnosis. But "If I was a kid today, I would have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD," he said in a recent interview with the Santa Barbara Independent. Every year he swore to himself that he would start paying attention in class and getting his homework done, but every year it seemed just as impossible as ever. It wasn't until he read The Right Stuff, a book about astronauts, that he found motivation to change his habits and pursue his future job. "I just decided right then and there that this is what I’m going to do," he said. Kelly just spent a year on the International Space Station, researching what effects life in space has on humans. Because of his groundbreaking research, humans may soon be able to fly to Mars — a journey that would require three years of flight.
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It only takes a few minutes of watching Ty Pennington on the show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to pick up on the star’s hyperactive energy. Diagnosed as a child, Pennington continues to manage his ADHD with the help of stimulant medication. According to his mom, Yvonne Pennington, the very traits that once held her son back are now what make him a huge success. She encourages parents to focus on what their child can do, as opposed to what they can’t do.
Karina Smirnoff of Dancing with the Stars has lived with ADHD her entire life, but wasn't properly diagnosed until adulthood. She's worked with her doctor to find the best treatment for her inattention and impulsivity, and, according to an interview with ABC News, Vyvanse helps control her symptoms. As a professional dancer, Smirnoff channels her ADHD energy into her work.
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When NME-award-winning Best British Solos Artist hip-hop star Loyle Carner was in the English school system, he was diagnosed with both ADHD and dyslexia. As a kid, he tells Vice, “I just thought I was this wrong and crazy kid and no one else understood… I didn’t know anyone older with ADHD and I didn’t know what prospects I had.” People didn’t want their kids to play with him; he spent time in the British version of special ed. But poetry “built his confidence.”
He was able to see the world in a more creative way. And it’s this creativity, he says, that’s let him become the successful hip-hop artist he is today. Now, he says, “ADHD is a superpower.”
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Bex Taylor-Klaus has come a long way since their third-grade after-school drama class. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Taylor-Klaus now travels between Los Angeles and Vancouver to play roles on the hit TV shows Arrow, The Killing, and House of Lies. Their advice to others with ADHD? "Embrace it. It may be a nuisance, it may be hard to deal with sometimes, but you can learn to manage it. Don't ever try to get rid of it entirely. Attention deficit makes you special."
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This Major League Baseball player remains outspoken about his life-long battle with ADHD. According to an interview with ESPN.com, ADHD made Victorino a hot-headed child. He amassed 10 ER visits before he was diagnosed with ADHD at age eight. Victorino continues to manage his ADHD symptoms through counseling and medication. In spite of his hyperactive tendencies, ADHD hasn’t stopped him from becoming a World Series hero.
Four-time Super Bowl champion turned sports analyst and commentator, Terry Bradshaw revealed in his book Keep It Simple(#CommissionsEarned) that he has struggled with ADHD for years. He’s also battled a mood disorder along the way, but none of his diagnoses stopped him from being inducted into the National Football League’s Hall of Fame.
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Successful political strategist turned TV personality, James Carville, did not always have such a winning streak. According to an interview with Health.com, he flunked out of college due to his ADHD. Today, Carville credits his ADHD with keeping him hyperfocused, adaptable, and full of energy — the winning combination for a fast-paced career in politics.
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Daniel Koh, the chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, has two degrees from Harvard, and was named one of Forbes magazine's "30 under 30" at age 26. Yet, as a child, teachers deemed him a lost cause and he struggled to sit still in class. He still sees ADHD as a positive. As he told the Boston Globe, "ADHD has caused me to learn practices and habits that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise, and I see it as a strength."
In July 2020, court documents revealed that actor Johnny Depp was diagnosed with ADHD and depression as he battled substance abuse for an oxycodone addiction.
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