Celebrities and Autism/Asperger Syndrome: The unique needs of actors, models, singers, musicians, and high-profile celebrities

During my lengthy career I have had the opportunity to meet many many people. Some of these people that I have met or are currently working with are celebrities. Celebrities on the Spectrun have unique needs and support that are different than a typical person on the spectrum.

There are many themes that have come from working with celebrities who are on the Spectrum, undiagnosed or diagnosed.

Some of these themes, but not all, are as follows and are a sneak peak into my newest book, originally entitled Behind The Mask, and are therefore under copyright.

  1. Fame and Attention

Generally speaking, people on the spectrum do not like attention, do not seek it nor do they like to be looked at. Many supermodels and celebrities on the spectrum have been doing this since they were young children and have developed coping strategies and compensatory mechanisms to deal with the attention. However, when their role changes it may bring certain mental health issues forward. For example, being in a boyband is a lot different than being solo and touring. One can hide behind musical instruments or being a part of a group is very different from being a solo star.

Freedom and privacy is a sacrifice that has been made and often disrupts the celebrity from going outside into the real world. Many become hermits, reporting they dread red carpet events (panic attacks), photo calls, movie promotions and the amount of yelling and noise directed at them, when they have to make appearances. Many reported dreading interviews, taking selfies and using props to hide behind or insist upon structured interviews, needing to know the questions before the interviews take place. Many also stated that they feel an incongruence, and rapidly doing back and forth between allowing their fans to get close to them to wanting to have absolutely nothing to do with them the next day.

  1. The red carpet and movie premieres

Many celebrities report that the red carpet events movie premiers and the after parties are a ‘nightmare’ for them but they understand that they needed to attend. Most has social exhaustion and/or had to drink or do drugs to have a good time. Most of them have reported that they prefer to go home read a book play with their animal or be in solitude. Many celebrities report using alcohol and drugs to help them get through Red carpet events, movie premiers, after parties, award shows and even being on stage singing or acting.

  1. The Paparazzi

The paparazzi is a special kind of animal that celebrities have to deal with. Not only do they have no privacy because of their security and bodyguards, they also have no privacy due to the paparazzi and their long lens cameras. They find this very distressing, especially when a photograph of them ends up on a tabloid or in the news with a fake story.

  1. Privacy

Privacy is something that is taken for granted by people on the spectrum who are not celebrities. For those on the spectrum, celebrities report that they gave up their right to privacy and this is one of the most challenging aspects of their career. They often do not see this as fair and believe it to be an injustice, vehemently protecting their privacy while others see this as a necessary, although very much disliked part of their career. A common thread is the feeling of belonging to everybody else when out in the public due to the attention, fans, media and paparazzi. Some reported that they have been involved with the paparazzi, in terms of taking their camera’s and not wanting the photos published.

  1. Social naivety and being taken advantage of

Many models, celebrities, musicians, dancers, actors and other celebrities on the spectrum have reported been taken advantage of in a variety of ways. Models and supermodels report photographers and agents taking advantage of them sexually. Actresses have reported being taken advantage of to get a role in a film. Sometimes they got that role and sometimes they didn’t, despite being taken advantage of sexually. Female musicians are particularly used and abused by the companies that own them and their producers. Females have reported that produces have sexually abuse them or text them and have had them signed contract without knowing what they were signing. They also reported that their managers ‘stole’ their music.

  1. Perfect Pitch

Many celebrities on the spectrum that I have worked with have Perfect pitch or near relative perfect pitch, which is a rare talent to find. These musicians sometimes have problems with the audition process due to their inability to keep quiet in terms of what they view as injustice. Many times musicians that I’ve worked with have been dropped by their labels or talent shows due to the director saying that they are “too difficult to work with”. Many singers did not believe that the audition process or how a shoe of event words, was unfair. Some of them have lost great opportunities due to having difficulty understanding how the music industry, for example, works.

  1. Dealing with trolls

Celebrities and those with perceived social status are prone to being targeted by Trolls and stalkers. This is particularly difficult for a person on the spectrum due to their high sensitivity, extreme emotions and some of them believing what the trolls say about them. If you have been trolled or you are being trolled, please read this research paper: “Who do you troll and why? And investigation into the relationship between the dark Triad personality is an online trolling behaviours Towards popular and less popular Facebook profiles.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563217305034

People that are or have been stalked need to take immediate action. Many celebrities reported experiencing unwanted contact and that despite the stalker being given the message to stop their behaviors, were fixated and obsessive persons. This can cause some people to become paranoid, and rightly so. In is imperative that stalkers are nipped in the bud.

A good support team around you at all times is imperative and this is also difficult and challenging for people on the spectrum because they want solitude and they don’t want people around them. However for safety concerns, it is an unfortunate necessity or it will get much worse. There are a number of ways to go about gaining that solitude via tricking the paparazzi.

Some people on the spectrum have got in trouble due to assaulting the paparazzi, taking their cameras physically or verbally abusing them. This can be understandable, however their behaviors can lead, at times, to celebrities getting in trouble with the law.

  1. Dealing with mental health issues, depression, anxiety and suicide

Many celebrities have reported that break ups, events, movie premiers and the paparazzi have caused them anxiety attacks, panic attacks and mental health issues. Some celebrities have resorted to the use of alcohol and drugs to manage their mental health issues.

  1. Dealing with the “rag mags”.

Celebrities have reported that one of the biggest problems for them is seeing themselves in the rag mags and reading stories about their lives that are untrue. Their enlarged sense of justice then goes off and this will inducing them a meltdown, unable to cope with the accepted attention that is a normal part of celebrities lives. There is little they can do about it but sue the magazine, if they choose to. They also reported finding it difficult and distressful due to not knowing what the outcome will be in the future. They also reported that they worry about what others will think of them due to the story about them being in the magazine and the lack of truth to it.

  1. Hiding their Autism/Aspergers

Many people on the spectrum have to hide there autism or Asperger’s syndrome label, if they are diagnosed. To some degree, eccentricity is valued in places like Hollywood but ‘autistic’ traits are not, according to the celebrities I have interviewed.

  1. Misinterpretation of non verbal body language, communication and vice versa.

Many celebrities spoke about having a support person to assist them with the more challenging aspects of their career.

  1. Impostor syndrome.

Typically celebrities report that they have a hard time being their complete self in castings or auditions due to stress and worry about the result and whether they get the job or not. More often than not, they spoke to me about feeling like an ‘imposter’.

  1. Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and drugs are a common problem for high profile Asperger/Autistic individuals. This is usually as a way of regulating emotions, alleviating social anxiety, and coping with living life as a celebrity. Drugs are readily available and often free for celebrities. Some celebrities reported that they were routinely given drugs by their managers.

  1. Control

The companies that own and control them are a major stressor for individuals on the Spectrum. Many have reported being gagged, abused and/or intimidated. Many reported that they were told what to do or not what to do, what to wear or not to wear, right down to their hair, facial hair, tattoos and who to date or not date, as these factors influence their image to their fans. Inequality in terms of being paid less, being given less opportunities than their male cohorts, not being listened to, not being allowed to speak and/or being taken advantage of sexually.

  1. Body Image

Suggestions and expectations for plastic surgery and weight are rife including nose reconstruction, breast implants, butt implants, cheek implants, different coloured contact lenses, hair extensions and/or make up. Anorexia and other eating disorders were also discussed. Some people on the Spectrum found the makeup and costume dressing stressful, as it involves many people touching and being around them.

Support for Celebrities

Celebrities on the Spectrum need a support group and understanding. It is their Autism that enables them to be that amazing singer or actor, a fantastic model or artist, costume designer, screenwriter, director or comedian.

Having a number of supportive and trustworthy people in an celebrity Autistic persons life is paramount.

Having questions to interviews beforehand is very helpful.

Having a support person on the red carpet decreases the anxiety attacks that come as a result of being surrounded by large groups of people screaming at them.

Having a body double to confuse the paparazzi was reported to be very helpful.

Having a support person to assist them with contracts, paperwork, legalities is a must.

Developing a number of strategies and coping mechanisms specific to a celebrity are quite helpful. Those strategies depend on the celebrity, what kind of work they do, how famous they are, what coping strategies they are currently using and defining what hasn’t or does not work.

A positive healthy advocate for the celebrity is imperative. Many celebrities spoke about negative family members and/or managers and/or support persons. They felt that their interests were not protected. It was reported that a major breakdown would ensue after some years of having toxic people in their Iives.

copyright by Tania Marshall 2019

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