Newcomer Grace Gealey became an overnight sensation after she landed the role of smart and sexy music executive Anika Calhoun on TV’s most talked about new drama, Empire.
Gealey, who grew up the daughter of two non-hearing parents in the Cayman Islands, is using her new fame to advocate for the deaf community. She explains that her father was born with hearing loss and her mother lost her hearing when she was 2 after battling pneumonia. Gealey says she learned how to communicate with sign language before she learned to talk. She says she doesn’t know what it’s like to be raised by hearing parents, because she has nothing to compare it to.
“It wasn’t until I was out in public till I realized that people were treating my mother differently," she says. "There was so not a lot of compassion, not a lot of love, for people with disabilities.”
She says the biggest misconception about non-hearing people is "people think that because someone is deaf, that they are unintelligent."
"So, they speak to a deaf person like they are 3 years old," she says. "It's like, 'My Mom can understand you, she just can't hear you.'"