Famous People With Aspergers: American Idol?!

I’d like to introduce your to a soon-to-be famous person with Aspergers.

It’s one thing to read about famous people in history who “maybe” or “possibly” were on the autism spectrum.. However, it’s quite another thing to actually meet live people who are breaking into different cultural arenas.

famous people with aspergers

credit: BestWDW

This time, it’s the American music scene.  James Durbin, a young 21 year old man from Santa Cruz, California is a rising star on American Idol.  I’ve watched American Idol off and on over the years, and I’m not a particularly big fan of the show.  But I was told I needed to watch this young man, who was diagnosed at age 9 with both Tourette’s Syndrome and Aspergers.

As I have read and researched about James’ life, I have learned some lessons that I’d like to share with you.

It’s Not Where You Come From, But Where You’re Going

James has not had many things handed to him on a silver platter.  He wasn’t born with a golden spoon in his mouth.  His father, also a musician, died of a drug overdose when James was only 9 years old. At 9 years old, as shared above, James was diagnosed with both Tourette’s and Aspergers.  He states he had his share of bullying throughout school.  And he’s currently unemployed, trying to support his 19 year old fiancee and his little boy.

Get Out There

James hasn’t been afraid to fail in front of millions. It’s easy to get focused on our limitations in life, but those who truly make a mark in life are those who are willing to get out there and try…and fail….and try…and fail.  Again and again.

Follow Your Passion

James learned early on that he had musical talent: music in his soul.  But I doubt that he always sounded great.  Diamonds come from coal.  A lump of coal is not as beautiful as a polished diamond.  James has been polishing his musical talent, I imagine, over years and years.  I’m sure his specialized hyperfocus that can be part of the gifts of autism spectrum conditions may be a secret ingredient of his success.  But his dedication, discipline, and hard work have also served him well.

Do Your Best

Lynn Soraya wrote an excellent article regarding James in her Psychology Today blog, Asperger’s Diary.  She made some very good points about the hypocritical nature of news and TV reporting.  Too often, shows like American Idol can lift up people with shortcomings who are truly talented, while ‘poking fun’ at those who are trying their best but still falling short.

I’m aware that many people, both with and without Asperger’s syndrome, struggle in life.  They may be unemployed, friendless, and frustrated.  It’s a challenge to stay emotionally strong in these circumstances, but you can be resilient.  Live a life of excellence, and let that be enough.  Not everyone is going to be James Durbin, or Darryl Hannah, or Heather Kuzmich.  Or Rudy Simone, or John Elder Robison.

But, neither are any of them going to be you!

Each of you is a unique individual with a host of unique gifts.  Learn to appreciate and nurture those gifts.  The world needs you!

I’ve included a video that summarizes a bit of James Durbin’s life and introduction to American Idol and to the world:


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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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  • Stephen Borgman

    Yes, Chris, it’s kind of strange, but at the same time a great opportunity for us to get to know individuals on the autism spectrum who are succeeding.