World Changer of the Month — October 2021: Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer was born in Montgomery, Alabama on May 25, 1970. She and her six siblings were raised by their mother, Dellsena Spencer, who worked as a maid. Her father died when she was thirteen.
Early on Spencer realized that she had a learning difference. She has recounted being fearful of reading aloud in class from a very young age. “I was paralyzed with fear because I kept inverting words and dropping words. I didn’t want to be made to feel that I was not as smart as the other kids—because I [knew that I was] a smart person.” Spencer would later be diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning disability.
Despite the challenges she faced with reading, Spencer’s drive and determination catapulted her forward. She credits her mother for keeping her grounded and positive as a child, which was especially helpful when school was challenging. She learned that she had strengths that many of her classmates did not have. She could solve puzzles quicker than her peers and was an incredibly strong auditory learner. Her teachers took notice of her strong deductive reasoning skills and auditory strengths, and ultimately, she was tested and placed in her school’s gifted program.
In high school, Spencer dreamed of working in television and film production. When she learned about a film being shot nearby, she applied for an on-set internship. But applying was not enough for Spencer. She called everyday to inquire about the job. And once she located the production team’s offices, she showed up everyday to reiterate her interest. Her persistence paid off and at 16 years old, she landed her first film job as an intern.
After graduating from Jefferson Davis High School in 1988, she went on to Auburn University, where she majored in English with a double minor in journalism and theater.
Today, Spencer has achieved international acclaim as an actor. Her acting career has spanned more than 20 years, but she is best known for her more recent roles. Some of her films include Hidden Figures, Insurgent, Zootopia and The Help. She’s received many awards, including a Golden Globe and an Oscar.
Spencer is also an author of children’s books and has created and written a book series for middle school students called The Ninja Detective series.
More recently, Spencer fulfilled her childhood dream of working in production when she added the role of producer to her list of achievements.
Even with all of her achievements, Spencer remains humble and true to herself.
“I was a dyslexic child and am a dyslexic adult,” she has said. “That doesn’t really mean that you’re not intelligent—it just means that your brain functions differently.”
Spencer hopes that young people who struggle with any kind of issue won’t give up on their dreams. She has said, “It doesn’t matter your situation in life; your path is what you choose it to be.”
To read more about this inspiring world changer, please visit:
https://www.understood.org/articles/en/celebrity-spotlight-dyslexia-cant-stop-octavia-spencers-success and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octavia_Spencer#Early_life. To view footage about her successful career, visit: https://youtu.be/EYhZA454fcE.