We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda McDonough and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amanda, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
As a Deaf woman, I definitely chose one of the hardest possible paths to pave for myself when I gave up my comfortable 9-5 desk job to follow my dreams of becoming a successful Hollywood actress.
As a kid, growing up with hearing loss in the 90’s, I wasn’t exposed to any openly hard of hearing role models for me to look up to in the media. I found no characters on tv for me to feel kinship with, models in magazines didn’t showcase hearing aids on their perfectly dressed frames, and blockbuster movies didn’t feature heroes with deafness. I often felt alone, isolated, and sometimes like a freak of nature. Society instead, told me that there was a long list of things I “couldn’t” do. So, more than anything, I needed to see people like me defying those odds. As an impressionable little girl with a passion for art, music, acting, and singing I needed to be shown that my dreams were possible. So, when I grew up, I became the woman that my younger self needed.
Since leaving my stable job, I’ve published a book called “Ready to be Heard: How I Lost My Hearing and Found My Voice,” so that no one with hearing loss ever has to feel like they are going through those complex emotions alone ever again. I have carved out some roles for myself on major network shows and in films in Hollywood. I’ve built a motivational speaking career to help others on their journey of overcoming their own personal obstacles and to share my personal journey of self-acceptance with audiences.
I still have a lot more work to do, but I like to think that my younger self would be proud of what I have accomplished so far.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started acting professionally in LA when I was a child. My first official paying acting gig was a national commercial when I was about 4 years old. Around that same time I was also diagnosed with hearing loss. I began gradually losing my hearing in both ears and I was terrified. As I grew older, my hearing continued to decline but I hid it from friends, extended family, and the people around me out of fear that they would treat me differently. For 18 long years I acted like I was fine, like I could hear and understand everything going on around me.
Then, one day, in the middle of my college education, I awoke to discover I had finally lost the last of my usable hearing. I was deaf, temporarily mute, and didn’t know sign language. I couldn’t act away the fact that I was different anymore. I finally had to face my deafness and find a way to accept and love myself as I am. That is what my book “Ready to be Heard: How I Lost My Hearing and Found My Voice” is all about; the journey I took towards self-acceptance and how I overcome my own obstacles.
I’ve always been a storyteller at heart. I started with acting, then branched out from telling other people’s stories to telling my own as a motivational speaker and a published author. Nothing about my journey has been easy. Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because I have learned so much about myself during my struggles. I hope that by sharing my own obstacles through my book “Ready to be Heard” that I will inspire others to tackle and overcome the road blocks in their own lives.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I grew up in LA county and have always loved the geographic diversity of my home. In just an hour drive I could be at the beach catching some rays, up in the mountains playing in the snow, enjoying the historic buildings (and food) in Old Pasadena, or even riding the monorail into Disneyland!
Since Coronavirus hit, my outings have been social-distanced outdoor activities. My dogs and I have been loving the dog beach in Huntington Beach. It is clean, people are friendly, parking is reasonable, and the doggos absolutely love it! I have also been spending some time at The Huntington Library walking among the gorgeous gardens and would recommend the statue garden, the Japanese Garden, and the rose garden (when the roses are in bloom) to anyone! Not only is it a beautiful outdoor space, but around every corner is a picture-perfect IG photo spot. Another amazing retreat I would love to take friends is The Arboretum, where I got engaged not long ago! If you need a peaceful outing and a good walk to stretch those quarantine legs of yours, this is great place to do that while observing majestic peacocks walking about nearly everywhere you turn!
Obviously COVID-19 has changed my usual hangout places, but LA has so much to do that I have still found ways to keep myself entertained while staying safe this past year!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Our LA Deaf Community, my amazing diverse entertainment industry friends with disabilities, and our advocates in Hollywood have been a constant source of encouragement and motivation for me. Even though we all have to fight tooth and nail for a very small number of opportunities it is wonderful being a part of a community that is so good at supporting and rooting for one another’s success! The way I see it, every booking for an actor with a disability or a disabled professional behind the camera is a win for authentic representation in Hollywood and one step closer to us all achieving our dreams!