Yes, Marlee Matlin is deaf. She is also Jewish, married, a mother, an author, an actress and an activist. She never let her disability define her, and she never gave up, instead she continues to inspire others while helping those less fortunate through her many charitable enterprises.
When she was just seven years old, she took on the role of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz at a local children’s theatre. She had lost her hearing at age 18 months, due to a malformed cochlea, but went on to finish school and study criminal justice at college. She kept acting throughout, mostly on the stage, and in 1986 made her first movie, Children of a Lesser God. Although it was her first starring role, she won the Academy Award for it, becoming the youngest actress to do so, and one of only four women who have won for their first movie. She’s also the only deaf actress to ever have won the Oscar, although that is just a sidebar for a woman who believes that “the handicap of deafness is not in the ear; it is in the mind”.
A Golden Globe Award for Children of a Lesser God also came that year, and she has two other nominations as well as four Emmy nominations to her credit. She has made appearances through the years in other movies and many television shows ranging from Sesame Street to CSI: NY, Desperate Housewives, ER, Seinfeld, and The West Wing.
More recently fans have seen Marlee Matlin on Dancing with the Stars and Celebrity Apprentice where she made a record amount of money for her charity of choice, although she didn’t win the title. She is also an author, having penned Deaf Child’s Crossing and Nobody’s Perfect. More recently her autobiography came out, called I’ll Scream Later a nod to the fact that when she found out she was nominated for the Academy Award she was in rehab for drug abuse and didn’t want anyone to find out; she was planning to celebrate, to ‘scream later’ once she was clean.
Matlin doesn’t want to define herself as a deaf woman, instead she does a lot of charity work with organizations that help the deaf around the world. In 2007 she signed the National Anthem at the start of the Superbowl and in 2009 she was awarded her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Not many can say they are godmother to a cruise ship, but Matlin has that distinction too, to go along with all the other wonderful things she has chosen to do with her life. She has a career, a family and yes, a disability but she has never let that stop her on the way to realizing her dreams.