My Beautiful Voice – Hazel Johnson

Hazel JohnsonAbout the Author:

Hazel Johnson is a 13 year old from Nebraska. Hazel is a young person who stutters. She enjoys dance, theatre, and petting every dog in sight.  

This is her story of advocating for people who stutter at a pageant this past summer where she won her first public-speaking competition (with a perfect score!)

Please contact Hazel via her mother’s email address or in the comments below.

Our words are our identity. The key to making friends, stating our opinions and expressing ourselves. For kids who stutter, including myself, facing stigma and ignorance are just a part of daily life and that identity is shadowed and broken by other peoples refusal to listen. I am bubbly, social, love performing and I have SO. MUCH. to say. Do I let my stutter stop me? No. But some days are hard. School days are filled with the mental gymnastics of hiding my stutter to fit in. And in 5th grade, I pretended that I didn’t remember my presentation and was criticized when in reality I could recite it in my sleep. just so no one would hear me stutter. I didn’t want people to think I was nervous or stupid, even though I knew that was wrong. Most people just don’t understand that stuttering is a neurological difference that affects how the brain and mouth communicate and people who stutter know exactly what they want to say.

Talking has gotten easier over the years and my stutter is now practically invisible, however it changes constantly. Stuttering has taught me empathy and patience, and the importance of being kind. I hope that I can translate that to others by advocating and educating about my difference *. Everyone deserves to be listened to, no matter how hard or easy it is for them to speak. All languages, accents, and stutters need to be heard. Instead of fixing imperfections we need to fix how we accept them. It matters what you say, not how you say it. And your voice is beautiful.

One year ago, I never would have imagined myself saying those words to anyone, ever. Especially not in front of a big audience at a PAGEANT. But, there I was, standing up at a podium with the microphone too high for me and the wrong speech put in front of me, in front of over 200 people and 6 judges, telling my story. At the pageant finale, I didn’t get the crown and banner, but that wasn’t what I cared about. I’m not much of a pageant queen anyway, and I placed in the top 5 out of over 20 pageant-pro contestants. My speech won 1st place. And on top of that, it got a perfect score from all 6 of the judges. After I finished, the pageant director told me that she stuttered as a kid and that she got what I was going through and that I inspired her. A dad in the audience told me he stuttered as a kid as well and was on the verge of tears as he told me thank you for telling my story. My voice is powerful. I want my experience to inspire more people who stutter and tell people who doubt them that they can do anything. To top it off, I have the opportunity to share my story at nationals this November in Orlando, Florida. It will take a lot to convince my mom, but maybe I will get to go! I’m so grateful for this experience and I am now more confident talking about stuttering to my peers. To other kids who stutter, be brave! There are more people willing to listen than you think. What you have to say is important.

Hazel pageant Hazel speech

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Comments

My Beautiful Voice – Hazel Johnson — 29 Comments

  1. Hi Hazel

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, and your wisdom, with us. Your words will help other people who stutter on their Journey.

    I really liked the way that you summarized some key attitudes:
    – Everyone deserves to be listened to, no matter how hard or easy it is for them to speak.
    – All languages, accents, and stutters need to be heard.
    – Instead of fixing imperfections we need to fix how we accept them.
    – It matters what you say, not how you say it.
    – And your voice is beautiful.

    You might be interested in listening to Dr. Brene Brown speak about “The Power of Vulnerability”, and also reading her books. I think that you will find in that content support for your approach.

    Hanan

  2. Wow! What a great paper to wake up to this morning. I had to check your age twice to make sure that you weren’t really 25. You have accomplished so much at such a young age and have such a powerful message to send. I assigned everyone on my caseload to read your story. You are an inspiration to all!

    Thank you for sharing your story! I can’t wait to see all the greatness you will achieve in your life!
    take care,
    Rita

  3. Hazel,

    This was wonderful. You have a strength and confidence about you that i wished I had at that age.
    I didn’t put myself out there like you have, at such a young age. You will be leap years ahead of many who stutter, even adults, as they walk their journeys.

    Kudos to you for being OK with being you.

    Pam

  4. Dear Hazel,

    Thank you very much for writing! I am a speech therapist from Peru and I will share this with my kids I have in therapy.

    Kind regards!
    Cynthia

  5. Hello Hazel! Thank you so much for sharing your story! I am studying to become a speech-language pathologist, and I am currently taking a course on stuttering. It is so important for me to understand the perspectives of what my clients may be feeling. I really appreciated your perspective and it helped me to better understand the feelings that come along with stuttering! I also loved that you have been able to share your story with a large audience because it is so important to create a better understanding of what stuttering is!

  6. Wow Hazel, you have the heart of a lion! I’m not a person who stutters, but the thought of speaking in front of a 200 person crowd, being given the wrong speech and having an awkwardly positioned mic would have made 13 year-old me freeze like a deer in the headlights. Present-day 37 year-old me isn’t wild about that possibility either.

    Your speech was so empowering. I love your message of encouragement and how people came up to share their stories with you afterward. I also love your use of humor: I chuckled at “I’m not much of a pageant queen anyway”. I think your accomplishment of getting out the message of acceptance for people who stutter will have a long-lasting impact for many people in the audience.

    You keep doing you!

  7. Beautiful and courageous…thank you for sharing your story, Hazel! “Instead of fixing imperfections we need to fix how we accept them” – YES!!!

    Ana Paula

  8. Hi Hazel!

    Fantastic speech, you are so brave… I cannot imagine public speaking even now, and I am 21! I loved reading your story. “Instead of fixing imperfections we need to fix how we accept them. It matters what you say, not how you say it,” SO inspirational, you have such a talent with words! Congrats on the perfect score, it was well deserved! Thank you so much for sharing. Keep doing what you’re doing, you have such a bright future ahead of you!!

    Virginia

  9. Hazel,
    Thank you so much for being brave to share your story here and at pagents. Your ability to be vulnerable and open up about how your stutter affects your daily life is truly inspiring and educational. It can be difficult for most adults to share their feelings so just know you are wise beyond your years 🙂 It was shocking to me to learn how you did not give your presentation in order to keep your stutter hidden. I had no idea how to keeping up a social appearance can impact your education. I hope you continue to educate the world about what being a PWS means to you.
    Dawn

  10. Good evening, Hazel!
    I wanted to say that your story is very inspiring. It heartwarming to hear that someone as young as you are has learned to not be afraid, be confient, and outgoing. It is inspiring to hear how you have not let your stutter stop you from competing in a pagent. It is apparent that you will do great things in your journey for advocacy as it already has as demonstrated by those in the audience.

    Best of luck at nationals!

  11. This story is very inspiring! You have the confidence that I wish I had at a young age. It takes a special kind of person to open up and be vulnerable, especially about stuttering because it is something that many people have negative feelings about.

  12. Hi Hazel!

    Your story is so inspiring and I bet it serves as a huge encouragement for your peers- in any obstacle they must overcome! I like how you mentioned the opporunity you had to speak in front of so many people and howthey got to let you know how it affected them.

    I do have a question for you! How does it make you feel knowing our current President has a stutter of his own? What do you hope to see with the exposure of more PWS in our culture?

    Good luck in November! 🙂

  13. Hello Hazel,

    First, I would just like to say that you are far beyond your years. Your kindness and empathy is inspiring and I kind of want to be like you when I grow up. 😉 But truly, you are an incredible example of all that is good. I love the line “Instead of fixing imperfections we need to fix how we accept them.” This is applicable in so many aspects of life. Love and acceptance of all is what makes this world a better place.

    Thank you for sharing!
    Kelsey

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