Radio Disc Jockey. Movie Critic. Motivational Speaker. Tommy Edison is a man of many titles. His quick wit and charisma are pieces of a larger than life personality that dominates the radio as much as the screen.
He’s also blind and has been since birth. Yet that fact does nothing to slow down this fast-paced, carpe diem kind of guy. He’s the type to find a dream and relentlessly chase it, leaving the voices of doubt behind, including the one in his head.
Recently, Dreamscape Foundation managed to catch up with Edison to talk about his journey through radio, YouTube, and life in general.
Young Tommy Edison Had a Voice and Yearning for Radio
The seeds of Edison’s career began very early on. Unlike many of us, he never fumbled for a purpose. He had a keen yearning that directed his steps, and he followed it to his calling.
“As a little kid I always wanted to do radio,” Edison said. “That was the one thing I wanted to do, so that was my focus all through school. I eventually got to intern at a couple of radio stations in AM and FM. From there they could tell I was into it and said, ‘Hey, we’ll give the kid a chance.’”
That career lasted nearly twenty years as he worked as a traffic reporter for Star 99.9 in Connecticut as a traffic reporter. For him, it was a great gig. His job was purely listening as he gathered insight on the traffic status from callers and other sources.
He would memorize it all, then bring it to life on the air with an energetic status report for listeners. Yet this was only the beginning of Tommy’s media career as social media began to open the doors for new avenues of connecting with an audience, including YouTube, Instagram, and Podcasts.
The Birth of Blind Film Critic and The Tommy Edison Experience
In 2011, something new joined the ranks of YouTube channels; something no one expected.
“One day we got the idea to do the Blind Film Critic, and we did it, and it was incredible,” Edison confessed.
Tommy teamed up with Ben Churchill to film multiple videos critiquing movies after they watched them.
Well, in Edison’s case, he listened. Originally, he wouldn’t use audio descriptions to assist with the movie. Instead, he would immerse himself in the dialogue, music, and sounds, and give his two cents afterward on what he thought.
Edison’s unique perspective drew an audience that is 39,000 subscribers strong over the seven-year run of the series. There was no science to his reviews, only a basic reaction to the film like you would share among your friends. Yet it was comical, entertaining, and for many, insightful.
In fact, the questions he received led to The Tommy Edison Experience, a separate channel where he answered viewers questions, played games and gave insight into what everyday life as someone who is blind is like. It grew like wildfire.
It gave those who were curious an in-depth look at life without sight as well as a real-life example of how fulfilling it can truly be. Now the channel features more than 613,000 subscribers and millions of views.
New Steps into Public Speaking
As the Blind Film Critic and The Tommy Edison Experience series came to a close in April of this year, Edison began to redirect his voice toward a new purpose: motivational speaking. After living a life that defied the naysayers and the hurdles of his disability in order to achieve his own dreams, he wanted to empower others to do the same.
“People said, ‘You can’t be on the radio.’ I did it,” Edison said. “They said, ‘You can’t do movie reviews.’ I did it. They said, ‘You can’t do Instagram.’ I’ve done it. People have told me all throughout my life things I’m not supposed to do, and I do them all, and I love it. I like people who break the rules.”
By break the rules, he doesn’t mean building a rap sheet, of course. Instead, it’s about silencing your fears and giving the life you want a go. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.