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Ari Emanuel

Ari Emanuel Shares His Experiences With ADHD and Dyslexia


Updated June 16, 2009

Ari Emanuel

Ari Emanuel was diagnosed at an early age with ADHD and dyslexia. He is now a Hollywood powerhouse.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment

Ari Emanuel is co-founder of Endeavor, one of the most powerful talent and literary agencies in the country. He represents a long list of major actors, writers, authors, producers and directors for film and television. He is also the inspiration for the character of Ari Gold, played by Jeremy Piven in the HBO series Entourage. Emanuel’s brothers are Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, head of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health.

Though Emanuel has obviously experienced high levels of success, his position hasn’t come easily. He was diagnosed at an early age with ADHD and dyslexia. As children, the Emanuel siblings were required to post their report cards on the refrigerator. Ari’s tended to be the lowest. Though he excelled in sports and math, in high school Emanuel was placed in a special education program. He calls the experience “brutal” and admits to putting on a hard, aggressive exterior at school only to come home where he could cry and acknowledge his pain. “You have all these dark voices in your head which we all know: ‘Maybe I should kill myself.’ ‘I am never going to make it.’ ‘Am I ever going to be successful?’”

Emanuel shared these feelings and more about his experiences with ADHD and dyslexia during an interview with Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., founder and director of the NYU Child Study Center. Their discussion was part of the Seventh Annual Adam Jeffrey Katz Memorial Lecture Series held on May 13, 2009 at Friends Seminary, Meeting House in New York City.

While participants were still settling into their seats and before the interview was formally started by Dr. Koplewicz, Emanuel launched into his presentation. Dr. Koplewicz suggested they start over. “This is ADHD,” Emanuel said. “I just started. If you weren’t ready, I was.”

Watch and listen to the full interview as Emanuel discusses living with ADHD and dyslexia. Click through the various topics he addresses which include: Early Childhood, Self Esteem, Medication, Tough High School, Maintaining Focus, Opening Up, Out of Trouble, Relationships, Hobbies/Love, Growing Up, His Children, School Difficulty, Entertainment, Advocacy, Kids/Homework, Sleep Difficulty, Learning, De-stigmatizing LD, Ari on TV, Advice to Spouses.

Below are a few excerpts from the interview.

Early Childhood

“I was in the principal’s office, I think, every other day. No kidding. They said to me, you know, I don’t think he is gonna make it to high school. In high school I was in the special ed program which at the time, you know, was an unbelievable label and they said for sure I’m not going to college and, you know, I have a really unbelievable mother and she didn’t listen to any of them and, you know, we just continued this trek between reading teachers and at home and I hated her for it, but I love her now for it. In my house the other thing that they did is they didn’t treat me any different.”

School Difficulty

“Kids just make fun of kids, you know, and you’d come home and as much as you didn’t want you’d put on a really hard face at school and you’d beat the crap out of people and you’d get home and you start crying – ‘Why mom am I different?’ – and I am telling you, you have all these dark voices in your head, which we all know. ‘Maybe I should kill myself.’ I remember it. Right. At 13 or 14, ‘I’m never going to make it.’ ‘Am I going to be successful?’ and your parents are thinking the same way, ‘Is he going to make it?’ and you have these emotional feelings of ‘this is too tough.’”

Tough High School

“The toughest thing was being in a special education program in a really high end school…and that stigma.The funny thing is I didn’t really realize it then because my mom didn’t let on like I wasn’t normal, right, she didn’t , you know, it was fine. She would say Einstein was this or they were dyslexic or they had this and she would go through the people and she would read me the books and it was never, eventhough those people were saying I was never going to go to college. She was like, ‘That’s not happening. You are going to college.’ So it was never in my thought process that I wasn’t going to college, that I didn’t have to perform and that if I didn’t do well I didn’t have to answer to her. It was there.”


NYU Child Study Center. Seventh Annual Adam Jeffrey Katz Memorial Lecture Series. May 13, 2009. Friends Seminary, Meeting House in New York City.

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