<em>Celeb Life Magazine</em>
A Better World->Faces oƒ Philanthropy
If you ask Marlee Matlin about herself, she’ll tell you she’s a crazy actress. Don’t believe it. The Oscar winner is about as grounded as they come, perhaps thanks to her parents, who gave her the confidence to conquer any barrier she confronts. “Each time I see someone who wasn’t or isn’t as fortunate as I was, I step right in and pass along the lesson I got from them,” Matlin tells.
Step in she does. Not shy about using her celebrity, when Matlin sees a need, she fills it. If it’s a cause she is passionate about, she is glad to film a public service announcement, speak out on Twitter or open her checkbook.
Children’s issues are near and dear to her heart. A big fan of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which sponsors missions to Third World countries, Matlin can’t say enough about its objectives. Best Buddies, another on her list of important nonprofits, offers mentoring opportunities to teenagers with developmental disabilities.
Matlin understands that she’s the most high-profile deaf person out there, and often, it’s a very large burden to carry. You’d never know it. When deaf children meet up with Matlin, they go gaga for her, and her face, likewise lights up when she meets them. Her work with deaf children boosts their vision of what they can accomplish.
However, as the most high-profile deaf person, she faces some very difficult challenges. Every deaf organization wants a piece of her. Several times each week she declines certain charity events. A wife and mother of four children, Matlin has a great many responsibilities. Physically, it’s impossible to be everywhere. Donations, as much as she would like to give to everyone who asks her, are an insurmountable task. “My purse isn’t as deep as I would like it to be,” she explains. She does what she can and chooses charities that she hopes will impact the largest number of people or that she feels have been neglected for too long. “It’s really a tough choice. I just hope people respect the position I’m in.”
Never one to walk away from a challenge, Matlin faced some nasty remarks after she won the Oscar for Children of a Lesser God. Naysayers were all atwitter that her triumph was the result of a pity vote. “It was very disheartening to have been thrown that on the morning after my highest achievement, but I chose to look the other way and move on. I was determined to prove them wrong, and I did.”
The Illinois native made her professional debut as Dorothy in the International Center on Deafness and the Arts (ICODA) production of The Wizard of Oz. As a young girl she never imagined that someday she would dance live before a television audience of 25 million people on Dancing with the Stars . Awestruck, she proved that as a deaf person, she could do anything—without ever hearing the music.
When Matlin was 18 months young, she lost her hearing. It may have been from a malformed cochlea, which is why she’s the only member of her family who is deaf. Nothing could stop her, not even deafness. She remembers something she wrote when she was a child.
“I wanted to ride in a big car, be a big star in Hollywood and give people my best smile and best autograph. I know that I may not be that ‘big,’ but I still give people my biggest smile when they ask for my autograph. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I may be inspiring another little Marlee, as people like Henry Winkler inspired me when I was 13. I am thankful for the lesson I learned from Henry when he quoted Theodor Herzl: ‘If you will it, it is not a dream.’ My dreams were never too big to accomplish, and I am so grateful for the opportunities I have been afforded.”