The journey to international superstardom wasn’t easy for Henry Winkler. Although fans got to know and love him as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli on Happy Days, the young actor at the time was struggling. “I thought I was a nobody my whole life,” he candidly admitted to People in a recent interview. “I’m getting 55,000 fan letters a week, but I think I’m stupid. Those worlds were colliding.”
At the time, Henry was suffering from severe dyslexia. Although his condition remained undiagnosed until he was in his 30s, the star of HBO’s Barry admitted that he faced many challenges because of it. “There is an emotional component to the learning challenged,” said the 73-year-old — who joked that his parents call him “dumb dog” for his failures. “You don’t have a sense of self because you’re not keeping up with everybody. When you’re growing up and you don’t know that it’s just wiring in your brain, you feel terrible about yourself.”
Throughout the trials and tribulations of living with dyslexia, Henry said one thought continued to pop into his mind. “I was failing at everything,” he admitted. “I thought, ‘Will I ever be somebody?'”
Even when his fame crowned him as one of Hollywood’s hottest stars, the Better Late Than Never actor’s confidence was still low. “No matter what people told me, and I understood pragmatically that being a celebrity was amazing, I didn’t believe that it could be me.”
Finally, Henry was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 31 — but his reaction wasn’t exactly what you might have imagined it’d be. “The first thing that happened, was I was angry,” he explained to the outlet. “All the yelling, all the grounding, all the humiliation was for nothing.”
After some time, Henry not only came to terms with his condition, but he embraced it! The TV producer gave acting a run for its money after he began a second career as the author of 29 children’s books. Henry’s books tell the story of Hank Zipzer, an elementary school student with dyslexia.
Despite overcoming so much, Henry still struggles with accepting his learning disorder — even though it’s been over 40 years since his diagnosis. “The self-doubt doesn’t leave you,” he confessed. “But will is the beginning and end of living on this earth. And you need to stop the negative voice.” Henry is so inspiring!