By: Tristen Menichetti
From the moment Marlee Matlin signed her first word, the audience was hooked. While a few people positioned pens to take notes, the majority sat in quiet awe, latching on to the lecture unfolding in front of them. Interpreter Jax Jackson relayed each phrase, taking care to maintain the audience's attention without taking away from Matlin’s moment.
Matlin’s presentation as a keynote was a highlight of the 2022 PRSA International Conference at the Gaylord Resort in Grapevine, Texas.
It’s not difficult to get captured by Matlin. At just 58 years old, the film star has won several Golden Globes, Emmys and Academy awards for acting on top of several awards for directing in her newest work “CODA.” Although her list of accolades is long, she quickly makes it clear that it’s not the purpose of her visit.
“I am here because professional communicators virtually ensured my career stayed on track, despite the barriers,” Matlin says.
The barriers she alludes to go much further than just surface level. She puts the reality she and many other deaf or hard-of-hearing people in the industry face by breaking down the numbers. Matlin points out that only 5% of film centers around deaf stories, and only 5% of that 5% are authentically told.
Matlin did not let these statistics stop her though, and through her break-out role in the 1986 film “Children of a Lesser God,” she used her own adversity to champion representation. At just 19 years old, Matlin became both the youngest and the first deaf winner of an American Academy award. This didn’t come without her own personal challenges though. On top of having to fight for deaf inclusion, Matlin had her own individual battle with sobriety. Only one day after her big Academy Award win, she secretly checked herself into a rehabilitation clinic.