Did you know that October 22 is International Stuttering Awareness Day? Roughly 1% of the adult population stutters. Emily Blunt, Rowan Atkinson (also known as “Mr. Bean”), and Ed Sheeran are among this percentage.
While there are people in the public eye who stutter, this fluency disorder is still highly misunderstood. Some research shows that stuttering is caused by a combination of factors such as language development, genetics, and brain function and structure.
Tony Reimonenq III is a native Mississippian. He is a person who stutters and has pursued a career in acting. Born and raised in Hattiesburg, he always knew he was different, and his stutter solidified this feeling of uniqueness. Because of this, Tony knew he had to be a hard worker and have unwavering confidence to succeed. Tony has grown to become confident in not being like anyone else and embracing the way he speaks. He is passionate about helping others and seeing them at their best and loves establishing connection through the arts. Tony has two brothers, and while they don’t stutter, his dad’s brother stutters, and his cousin’s sister used to stutter.
Tony has stuttered his entire life and recalls his grandmother asking him a question where he stuttered as he answered at the age of two years old.
He also remembers working at a restaurant where a fellow staff member witnessed him stutter and told him to “never do that again”.
Stuttering and Acting
Acting requires a lot of speaking. I asked Tony if stuttering has impacted his acting career, and he stated that it has impacted him positively in that he has to work hard. Tony said, “I have to practice at practice” meaning that he has to really work on his speech during rehearsals. He recalls auditioning for the Wizard of Oz, where he stuttered a lot during a cold reading. This left him feeling defeated and small. While he felt defeated, Tony persevered and learned what he needed to do in order to prepare for cold reading rehearsals and auditions. One method he uses is intentionally pushing himself to finish a word after repeating a syllable twice and to focus on building the character more.
People who stutter are presented with a unique set of daily obstacles. From answering phones and making phone calls to initiating conversations. Initiating conversations in an obstacle that Tony always works on overcoming. He works on this by releasing the fear of speaking first. A lot of the fear of speaking first stems from the fear of judgment and embarrassing oneself, which Tony spoke about. Tony works on these feelings daily and pushes himself to continue to get out of his comfort zone. He also said that when he was younger, his parents put him in charge of making phone calls, so that he would become more comfortable and confident when speaking on the phone. While these phone experiences were scary for him, as a child, Tony expressed gratitude for these moments, as they’ve helped him with his communication over the phone.
Tony also practices not judging himself for stuttering and not worrying about the judgment of others. A more practical approach he uses to help him with stuttering is to remain calm when communicating as well as slowing down and choosing his words. Tony says, “I want to communicate in the way I want to be spoken to”.
There are many misconceptions about stuttering, what it means, who does it, why it happened, and so on. Tony believes that one of the most frustrating misconceptions about stuttering is that “Stuttering makes you weak, soft, or timid, mild or unable to stand up for yourself” (Reimonenq). Another misconception about stuttering that is frustrating to Tony is that some men may get a confidence boost by thinking he is intimidated by them because of his stutter. He is learning how not to take these misconceptions personally.
Does Stuttering Have its Advantages?
Tony believes that his stutter has benefitted him. He replied, “Absolutely. Knowing that God can use anybody. He used Moses, and Moses stuttered and led the people out of Egypt”. Tony knows that his stutter does not disqualify him in any way, and he has learned himself outside of what people consider an ailment. He states that everything he has been through, regarding his stutter, has given him thick skin. One way that Tony would deal with jokes and bullying is by joining in with others who would bully him. Doing this helped him gradually become more accepting of stuttering. “I am grateful for the lessons” (Reimonenq).
What Do You Need to Know About Stuttering?
“It is a brain thing and a lot of times, it is something people cannot control” (Reimonenq). Tony wants people to understand that stuttering is not a choice and that it is an uncontrollable condition that is difficult for those who have to deal with it. He urges people to be patient, kind, and to extend the same amount of grace they would want to receive from others to those who stutter. He says that it is important to remember that people who stutter are not weak or weird, rather it is merely a difference that can be used to unite us all. “Hopefully, them slowing down to listen to us speak will help them in every area of their lives” (Reimonenq).
Aspire to Inspire
Tony continues to inspire others to be themselves. He lives by the motto, “ [I] Be myself– just be myself. With this comes everything– standing in your truth, in confidence, in self worth, and your unique individuality”.
His platform, Tonytopia, is on Instagram @tonyt0pia and YouTube as “tonytopia”. With this platform, he encourages connection amongst others through authenticity and transparency.
The Show Must Go On
It is true that people who stutter face many challenges; however, Tony, amongst many other amazing people who stutter, shows us that stuttering is not a hindrance. As long as you believe in your abilities and have faith, the possibilities are endless!