For years, conspiracy theorists have floated the bizarre rumor that legendary musician Stevie Wonder can see. Our initial reaction is that such speculation is completely absurd—the artist’s image is inextricably linked to his blindness. But a number of public figures—from Shaq to the “Superstition” singer himself—have given us reasons to investigate. Find out why some are convinced that Stevie Wonder’s not blind.
Stevie Wonder Wasn’t Actually Born Blind
Wonder was born into the world six weeks early. Due to his status as a premie, he was treated in an incubator to give him organs extra time to develop. Unfortunately, he received too much oxygen while in treatment, which resulted in retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disorder caused by abnormal blood vessels throughout the retina.
In other words, Wonder wasn’t born blind. But the damage caused by his time in the incubator was permanent.
However, the setback didn’t get in the way of his ambition. In 2004, he confirmed to Oprah that he had once told his mom, “Don’t worry about me being blind, because I’m happy.” By age 10, he taught himself how to play the piano, harmonica, and drums. His lifelong experience as a musician may even explain the curious case of a 2010 live performance.
People Have Questioned Stevie Wonder’s Blindness Over The Years
In 2010, Wonder appeared with fellow living legend Paul McCartney at the White House. During a live performance of “Hey Jude,” McCartney accidentally knocked a mic stand over. Cameras caught Wonder instinctively catching the piece of equipment and setting it back in its place.
Naturally, the internet went wild and a conspiracy was born. But it wasn’t just wacky garden variety weirdos who pushed the theory. Various public figures chimed in with their take on the matter.
ESPN sportswriter Bomani Jones shot a video ranting about Wonder’s curious decision to compete on Dancing With The Stars. “Is competitive ballroom dancing something that is typically… like, do blind people do that?” he asked. (Fact check: Wonder appeared as a guest performer. His son Mandla Morris danced in Dancing with the Stars: Juniors.) “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me for having questions about these sorts of things.”
In 2019, Shaquille O’Neal also offered a curious anecdote on an episode of Inside the NBA. Co-hosts urged him to recount the time he stood unannounced next to Wonder at an elevator bank in their Los Angeles apartment building. According to the basketball star, Wonder could see him and asked “What’s up Shaq? How you doin’ big dawg?”
Other skeptical celebrities include actor Anthony Anderson and singer Lionel Richie, who’ve both shared their experiences with Wonder to the press. On an episode of the Kelly Clarkson Show, the “Dancing On The Ceiling” singer insisted that Wonder once steered a car down a driveway in reverse. “I’ve been spending my whole life with him thinking he can see,” said Richie. “I know he can see.”
In 2016, Anderson told Steven Colbert that he once challenged Wonder to a charity free-throw competition…and Wonder won. “Stevie can see,” Anderson insisted. “It’s just an act.”
Wonder himself has enjoyed playing along with the theory. P. Diddy once claimed that the musician once described the outfit he was wearing. When TMZ asked Wonder if the story was true, he simply smiled and said, “It could be.”
Can Stevie Wonder Actually See?
Despite the numerous testimonies by seemingly credible figures, it’s highly unlikely that Stevie Wonder has been lying to the world about his blindness. In a 1989 acceptance speech when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Wonder removed his glasses at the podium. His eyes appear to be significantly damaged.
There is no confirmation that Wonder is 100 percent blind, so perhaps partial blindness can account for some people’s skepticism. The human body is also known to compensate for the loss of vision by strengthening its sense of hearing, smell, and touch. Perhaps Wonder is simply more perceptive in ways that people with sight can’t comprehend. But at the end of the day, we just don’t buy into the theory that he’s been playing a long con.