Blindness Didn't Keep Voice Over Artist From Success

Voice over artist Pete Gustin can't read scripts - he's legally blind. But, as he tells Tell Me More, he didn't let his disability deter his talent.

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CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

Of course, we asked you not just about big dreams for the world, but personal dreams as well. Somewhere along the line, it's possible someone tried to discourage you from pursuing your dream. Did you listen? Pete Gustin did not. As a young adult, he wanted to make it big in the voiceover business, but he had a little problem. Ever since childhood, he'd been slowly losing his eyesight. Still, he'd go to tryouts. He'd memorize the copy beforehand. But one time, an agent tried to stop him. He said, thanks, but no thanks, the voiceover industry is packed with people who are talented and don't have problems.

PETE GUSTIN: You've got an issue. People aren't going to want to deal with it. We're not going to want to sign you. Thanks for coming. And had his secretary show me out.

HEADLEE: Gustin says that moment almost crushed his dream. It drove him to hide his disability. But eventually, using a computer-generated voice, he could read copy with the best of them. Today, you might recognize his voice from Super Bowl ads.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUPER BOWL AD)

GUSTIN: In a world that's perfect, lies a perfect little town. See what happens at Reebok.com after the game.

HEADLEE: And soap opera promotions.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOAP OPERA PROMOTION)

GUSTIN: "The Young and the Restless" - weekdays, only CBS daytime.

HEADLEE: Gustin recently posted a look-at-me-now video on YouTube.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "HOW DOES A BLIND GUY READ COPY FOR A LIVING?")

GUSTIN: I'm not like everyone else, and I don't do things like everyone else. In fact, how the hell am I reading this copy right now? I'm not even looking at it. Well, take a listen.

COMPUTER-GENERATED VOICE: Being read to me by a computer-generated...

GUSTIN: It's being read to me by a computer-generated voice. It took me a couple years of practice, but now all I have to do is hit the F7 button and this nice little lady reads me anything and everything a client wants me to read. And I'm able to, quote-unquote, read it just like anyone else might read it.

HEADLEE: Sharing his story publicly has helped Gustin overcome some of his long-held fears about being stereotyped.

GUSTIN: I was petrified because I didn't really want to come out and have everyone be like, oh, disabled guy, he might not be as good. But it was better than hiding it.

HEADLEE: Voiceover artist Pete Gustin of Braintree, Massachusetts. His YouTube video is called "How Does a Blind Guy Read Copy for a Living?" Coming up...

GUSTIN: Actually, allow me, Celeste. We'll take care of this. Coming up, we have Broadway star Tituss Burgess talking about his new album of intensely personal songs. This is TELL ME MORE.

HEADLEE: Oh, OK. Well, thanks, Pete. Like he said, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News, and I'm Celeste Headlee.

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