Empire star Grace Gealey |The Doctors | On growing up with Deaf Parents |

by Antonia

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Grace Gealey who is best known as Anika Calhoun (also nicknamed as Boo Boo Kitty) appeared on The Doctors and talked about her role on Empire and her experiences growing up with deaf parents. Read transcript below:

TD: I bet you when people see you out they kind of throw you shade a little bit and have attitude.

GG: I’ve had a couple instances were i’m like, ”hi” and then people are like (changes countenance to a serious/unimpressed one) “hmm girl.” I’m an Actor, it’s not real.

TD: And you just seem so sweet in person

GG: Aw thank you

TD: The contrast between playing this character that’s such a, you know kind of a villain, i guess we can call you that.

GG: It took me a while to kind of find her too, it took me a while to develop this character and i didn’t really know what way i really wanted to go with her, so it’s been kind of nice to see how it’s developed over time and I’m like, oh man! she’s really different than what i am.

TD: Apparently I’m the only one in America who hasn’t watched Empire [audience boos] …so you’re throwing shade at me now?

GG: For shame!

TD: Let’s get on him

TD: Grace, I actually said that i am going to watch it on Demand. But hearing that you grew up with deaf parents and this is obviously has become a big cause for you. What was that like when you were young?

GG: You know, so many people have asked me that question and it’s so interesting because i don’t know what it’s like to be raised by hearing parents.

TD: Sure

GG: So, i can’t be like “oh well”, there’s really nothing to compare it to. I do remember as i got older and signing was so normal for us in our lives. It wasn’t until i was out in public till i realised people were treating my mother differently. You know, and there was so not a lot of compassion and not a lot of love like for people with disabilities. So, as a child i remember getting really defensive,  you know because she sounds different and everything. So people would be like [raises voice] “Ma’am, excuse me? ma’am ma’am!” and they would just get really upset and i would have to come around and be like, “she can’t hear you”.

TD: Were you’re parents born with hearing loss?

GG: My father was born with hearing loss, he was born completely deaf and my mother lost her hearing around the age of 2. She had Pneumonia when she was younger.

TD: So both cases are what we call sensorineural hearing loss, meaning that the neural component, the inner ear component loses it’s function and typically that’s the most common form in that younger age.

TD: You grew up in bilingual household, basically you learnt how to sign before you even learnt how to speak.

GG: That’s right.

TD: And Grace, since we obviously have so many people watching who i do think have misconception about the hearing impaired. What do you think is the biggest misconception that we can enlighten folks with.

GG: The most surprising one is that people think that because someone is deaf that they are unintelligent. That’s the number one, and so they speak to a deaf person like they’re 3 years old. And it’s like my mum can understand you, she just cannot hear you.

TD: Right

GG: So, like i remember there was a person who once said to me were like “who’s going to pick you up?” and I’m like “my mum” and their like “your mum can drive?”

[TD presenters and the audience gasps in shock]

TD: Like you need to be able to hear to drive?

GG: I’m like the only thing you need to hear is a horn and if you’re doing your job, you’re fine you know what i mean.

TD: You done such a great job, people need to understand that, because it still goes on, it shouldn’t but it does.

GG: Right it does.

[Transcript written by Antonia Smith]

Quotes from Grace Gealey in other interviews, concerning her parents;

DETAILS: Your mom won’t read this. What is your hidden talent?
Grace Gealey: I do sign language because my parents are deaf. It makes me way more compassionate. I have so much more grace and patience for other people. There have been situations where I’ve been shocked by the way that people have treated my mom because they are unaware that she’s deaf—or they don’t care. We live in an instant gratification kind of world and so we don’t have patience for anybody anymore. If someone is taking their time walking up the stairs and making you late for work, we don’t stop to think, Well, maybe they’re going though something—or maybe they just can’t hear you. So I am interested in understanding other people’s stories before I judge.

DETAILS: Can you read body language, too?
Grace Gealey: Like a dream. It’s a gift because of my parents. I can tell when someone is scared. I can tell when someone is lying. I can tell when someone is fake. It’s so bizarre. I can tell when someone is hesitant—or has a little bit of trepidation—and no one else in the room can read it in that moment. But I can tell. Details | 27/3/15 | James Patrick Herman |


Born to hearing-impaired parents, Gealey and her older sister, Faith, learned to express themselves through sign language at a very early age. “Wanting to communicate in various ways is something I’ve always been attracted to,” she says. Philadelphia Style | Juliet Izon


“We do not know each other’s stories. Living the life I have lived, being raised by deaf parents, assimilating to a different culture and the challenges I have faced over time has given me insight to the fact that each person has their own complex, intricate story and it’s rarely what I suspect it is. We must have compassion and grace for each other. We MUST. Each person slowly walking up the stairs in front of you that is making you late may be healing from a pelvic injury. Each person who cuts you off in the street could be rushing somewhere else to urgently aid a friend in need. Each person you scream at because they are so ‘oblivious’ and haven’t answered your demands, could simply be deaf. We are all we have. Let’s be unwaveringly generous in showering each other with compassion, patience and grace. We need it much more than we think.” Essence.com | 20/3/15 | Grace Gealey

Grace recently done and interview with BELLO Magazine, check it out.


British Deaf Association

Babble | Young Carers

Twitter: @GraceGealey 

IG: @GraceGealey