Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering role models

The story about Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal – former US basketball player) coming out as a person who stutters has got a lot of attention on the blogs and social media.

On March 3, a video clip was released featuring Shaq discussing that he stutters for a Dove (soap) commercial. I didn’t like it! I don’t buy it! Shaq was a huge media presence in his basketball prime and he never spoke about stuttering when legions of kids adored him and looked up to him. He would have ramped up his role model status if he had “come out” when he was actively playing hoops!

My fellow blogger and mentor Daniele Rossi, of Stuttering Is Cool writes his reflection about another famous stutterer getting attention, even though he doesn’t stutter. Daniele and I appear to agree on this issue.

I think if famous people are going to be asked to promote stuttering awareness, then they should stutter. At least on one or two words. Or have at least one person who actually stutters be a spokesperson for something. Hey, maybe even a woman!

I posted my thoughts about this on one of the stuttering Facebook groups, and I got a lot of heat. People said I should give him a break – that it’s great that there is one more avenue for stuttering awareness.

Here’s what my comment was:

Sorry Shaq! I don’t buy it!  Ordinary people who stutter (and use Dove soap) can also be comfortable in our own skin!

Here are some of the responses:

Love this clip, any one that puts themselves forward to talk and advertise their own stuttering, as Americans call it, deserves applause in my eyes, whether they are celebs or ordinary folk.  In fact celebs can get criticised and people assume its for their own gains, which is often wrong. The way the media has spun it about being comfortable in his own skin is just advertising, that’s the way I look at it.

Pam- I think you are over thinking this. Remember it is after all an ad campaign. Remember he is being paid to use Dove products, of which there are many besides soap. Is anyone trashing Vice President Biden because he came out of the stuttering closet later in life, as did James Earl Jones? I for one think it’s great that he’s out of that closet. The youths out there love him and he is a wonderful role model, far better than Kobe Bryant, Charles Barkley or the other bad boys of basketball. This man is a gentle giant and I applaud him.

I’m thinking that you would like to see “regular” people cast in the limelight as people who stutter and “overcame” stuttering, correct?

 Not sure what the big hooplah is…yes, celebrities endorsing a product is always a bit cheesy, but I think that the ad raises stuttering awareness in a light-hearted and approachable way to a mass audience. I applaud him and I make no claims to know whether or not he uses Dove soap or truly stutters, and find myself truly concerned with neither. I suppose we could raid his shower in a soap detection effort and personal files for formal diagnosis documentation, but why? He’s a relatively positive public figure and he’s not only raising awareness, but also promoting positive self-image and self-acceptance. A bit kitschy? Maybe. But, effective, nonetheless.

I understand the frustration regarding predominantly male PWS role models who are mostly/completely recovered. It’s definitely a sore point–however, since there tend to be more males who stutter than females [to our current knowledge], I suppose I have come to just not fixate on that particular disparity in public portrayals of stuttering. And, yes, it would be desirable and healthy and refreshing to see someone stutter openly–onscreen, on camera, etc. Perhaps, one day we will arrive at that point. For now, I suppose that any progress toward giving stuttering a somewhat positive, vocal, national, viral platform is progress in my book.

I like the fact that he said he was comfortable in his skin, AND he still stutters. It’s Dove’s tag line, but I think it’s a great message for PWS – that we can be comfortable in our skin AND stutter. Being comfortable with our speech is part of being comfortable in our skin. This may be the first time he’s talked about it, and I think it’s a great thing.

The last comment reflects that Shaq says he is comfortable in his own skin and he still stutters. Wouldn’t it have been great if he had stuttered, just once, in this clip?

What do you think?

I might be sucker punched here, but if I had to choose who I thought was the better speaker at this year’s stuttering conferences, NSA and FRIENDS, I would choose Marc Vetri over David Seidler.

Nothing at all against Mr. Seidler, of course. He was highlighted in my last post and was deservedly the marquee keynote speaker at both conferences. He did a GREAT job! He stayed and interacted with as many people as possible at both conferences and delivered an inspirational message.

However, Marc Vetri was the perfect choice to address young kids and teens who stutter and their parents. Why? Because he stutters openly!

I happen to think it’s a really good idea to have people who stutter speak at stuttering conferences. And Vetri was phenomenal!

He is a renowned chef in the Philadelphia area, with three popular and thriving restaurants . He also won a 2010 Iron Chef competition, and regularly appears on the The Food Network channel.

He is an everyday guy who loves to cook and is enjoying industry success. With success comes more public speaking, and he stutters openly, not letting his stutter hold him back.

I had the good fortune to chat with Marc and his wife over lunch after he spoke at the conference. He is one regular guy who is a great role model!

Here is just a snippet of his five-star keynote address. I have more of him taking questions from the audience that I may be persuaded to post!


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2021.
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