"It feels like you’ve got this imposter living in your body,” the actress, 37, tells PEOPLE
Emily Blunt’s career, quite literally, depends on her speaking skills: whether she’s singing as beloved nanny Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns or frantically whispering as Evelyn in the thriller A Quiet Place.
Growing up, however, the London-born actress had a stutter that made it difficult for her to pronounce her own name.
“I started noticing it at 6 or 7,” Blunt, 37, tells PEOPLE in this week’s Women Changing the World issue.
“My grandfather, my uncle and my cousin all stutter. It feels like you’ve got this imposter living in your body.”
After a teacher noticed Blunt, then 12, didn’t stutter when she would launch into impersonations, he encouraged her to audition for the school play.
She found that the more she lost herself in characters, the less self-conscious she was and the more her stutter would diminish.
Now, Blunt helps kids find similar ways to cope through her work with the American Institute for Stuttering.
“Well, I think of all the causes, my work with the stuttering community is the one that pierces my heart probably most profoundly because of my own personal experience with it … I know it in every nuance and so to be able to help and to be able to offer up any advice or assistance or emboldenment that I can, it just is the greatest pleasure for me because it’s a very misunderstood, misrepresented disability, and … it’s one that is very often bullied and laughed at because people look funny and sound funny when they stutter.”
Blunt has especially been active in the fundraising and speaking efforts for the organization. She hosted the American Institute for Stuttering (AIS) Benefit Gala in July.
“They understand that how these kids relate to their stutter is usually the issue,” she says. “You’ve got to fall in love with the fact that you’ve got a stutter to accept it. But it’s not all of you. Everyone’s got something—and this is just your thing.”
Raising her daughters with husband John Krasinski — Hazel, 6, and Violet, 3 — has inspired Blunt to become more involved in women’s organizations. She supports Malala Fund, created by Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai to break down the barriers preventing more than 130 million girls worldwide from receiving an education.
Blunt and her husband Krasinski, 40, auctioned off two tickets to the premiere of A Quiet Place (as part of a double date with them!) to benefit Malala Fund.
They met the young leader and her father Ziauddin in 2017.
“She’s the most poignant, impressive person I’ve ever met,” Blunt says. “What she says is true: When women are empowered in communities, those communities flourish. I want to support Malala until the day I die.”
Blunt and Krasinki also work with Family Reach, an organization that helps financially support families affected by cancer.
Giving back is a quality she and Krasinski hope to pass on to Hazel and Violet. “Empathy reigns supreme in our house,” Blunt says. “We tell them all the time, ‘Be Brave, be kind.’”