Marlee Matlin: Actress, Activist and North Shore Native

You might have noticed that Marlee Matlin is kicking butt in Donald Trump’s boardroom on “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

Considering the career she’s had—defying the supposed limits of a disability—it’s really no surprise. In a recent episode, she led her team to victory in a charity competition, raising $1 million for her organization of choice, the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

Deaf since childhood, Matlin became the youngest woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress at age 21, for her film debut in “Children of a Lesser God.” Since then, she’s appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, and held several important charity roles. Among her accomplishments, she was instrumental in getting Congress to pass legislation in support of closed captioning.

Make It Better tracked down Matlin for a chat about her career, her charity work and motherhood.

MIB: Now that “The Celebrity Apprentice” has been filmed, what are you planning to do next?

MM: I’ll be starring in ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth” this summer and producing a couple of film projects I’m passionate about.

MIB: Why is the Starkey Hearing Foundation so important to you?

MM: It provides free hearing aids to children in Third World countries. I would hate to see a child’s future threatened because they can’t see doctor or afford a hearing aid.

MIB: How to you manage being a mom to four kids with your successful career?

MM: I’m fortunate to have a great husband and family. Plus I have a Blackberry, which keeps me on schedule!

MIB: You look gorgeous. What are you doing to stay fit?

MM: My workout is P90X. It’s all about muscle confusion; doing a different exercise routine each day so that your body doesn’t get accustomed to the same workouts. I drink Shakeology for protein.

MIB: What was your childhood in Morton Grove like?

MM: My parents treated me no differently than any other child, despite my deafness. With my hearing aid firmly planted in my ear and an attitude of the most popular girl in town, you would often find me skating down the street saying hi to everyone, whether they knew me or not. I was Marcia Brady … I just happened to be deaf!

MIB: What experience during your youth most influenced your acting career?

MM: First it was playing Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” Then, when I was 12, I met Henry Winkler, “The Fonz,” and practically the most famous person in America, who told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. Nine years later I was standing on a stage with an Academy Award in my hand.

MIB: You’ve written several novels for young adults, with deaf heroines. What do you hope kids take away from your young adult books?

MM: I want kids to know that nobody’s perfect and that all of us deserve respect and love no matter what level of abilities we possess. It’s about understanding each other, and understanding that everyone has something important to contribute to society.

  Who We Are       NFP Support       Magazine       Programs       Donate