The Cleft Palate Foundation appreciates Stacy Keach providing this special interview in honor of National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness Month. Thank you, Stacy!
Stacy: I would say that I’m an actor, a composer, and a voice-over artist. I would reference American Greed as a show I have been narrating for the past 11 years.
CPF: What form of facial difference were you born with? How many related surgeries have you had? What were the most challenging and rewarding stages of cleft care for you?
Stacy: I was born with a cleft lip and a partial cleft palate. I had four surgeries as a child: shortly after birth, at six months, then at a year and a half, and finally, at four years of age. The most challenging aspect of my young life was dealing with kids who teased me. This actually strengthened my resolve to succeed in sports, in academics, and as a young performer. I took speech therapy to help reduce the nasal sound of my speech.
CPF: What has inspired you to push through challenges in your cleft care journey? How has a team of cleft care specialists and support from family and friends helped along the way?
Stacy: There is no better support than parents. Friends are important as well, and doctors. My dear parents instilled the notion in me that I was special. Yes, I was different than other kids, but in many ways, that became a badge of honor.
CPF: Tell us a little about your career path so far. What accomplishments are you most proud of? What do you look forward to in the future?
Stacy: I have been very fortunate in my career. I have always loved the theatre, especially Shakespeare, and I am proud to say that I have had the honor and privilege to play many of his major roles. I had a great success playing King Lear, and I am looking forward to reviving that in the not-too-distant future.
CPF: Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
Stacy: My parents were my greatest influence. I also had a professor in college, William Oliver, at the University of California, Berkeley. He, along with my parents, gave me the confidence to pursue my dream of becoming the best possible actor in whatever medium I chose to pursue: film, TV, voiceovers.
CPF: How has having a cleft impacted the way you view the world?
Stacy: I am very sympathetic to families impacted by craniofacial issues, especially with regard to dealing with kids who tease, with speech impediments, with impaired looks. The message is constant and clear: Use whatever talent you discover you have to offset any negativity coming your way. Let your ‘special circumstances’ become a motor to achieve greatness in whatever field you choose to pursue.
CPF: You’ve spent time in the public spotlight. Are you always comfortable with your appearance? How do you handle the times when you notice your facial difference?
Stacy: As an actor, I am forever dealing with whether or not I want my scar to show, or do I want to hide it under a mustache? Over the years, I have generally wanted to have the scar showing if I’m playing tough guys or vulnerable roles, where it becomes important not to ‘hide’. I’m just getting ready to play an Italian mobster, and I’m definitely going to play him without a mustache… but then, I am so giving him pale blue eyes (special contacts) and a gold tooth (special denture).
CPF: What else would you like the cleft-craniofacial community to know?
Stacy: I would like the craniofacial community to know that there is always a way for those of us born with defects to show another side of our personality that diminishes the importance or the stigma of being ‘different.’