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Pete Gustin | March Men In Motion

Action shot of Pete on his surfboard in the middle of a wave.

Pete Gustin | March Men In Motion

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“I wanted people to look at and be like, holy crap, he’s blind and he surfs like wow. And we mix in some of the voiceover stuff. And I do a lot of skateboarding. I’ve done some rock climbing, knife throwing shooting guns, ax throwing, we’ve done a lot of stuff.”

~Pete Gustin

Editor’s Note

If you aren’t familiar with Pete Gustin by name chances are extremely high that you’ve heard his voice because he’s literally everywhere. I met Pete for the first time last year when Bold Blind Beauty did a piece on the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences. So you could have knocked me over with a feather when he agreed to be our March Man In Motion.

Outstanding voice actor, Pete is a multi-talented person and a sports enthusiast who has a great sense of humor. His videos on Instagram keep me in stitches and when I received a recent YouTube notification that him and Anthony Ferraro (February’s Man In Motion) did a collab I wasn’t disappointed.

Being able to learn more about Pete’s journey that contributed to him becoming the person he is today is enlightening and I hope you enjoy the segment. Below Pete’s YouTube video is the transcription for those who prefer to read. ~Steph

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover

Action shot of Pete on his surfboard in the middle of a wave. Text on the cover reads "Beyond Sight March 2022 | Men In Motion | Pete Gustin."

YouTube Video

Meet Pete

Outdoor headshot of Pete smiling and looking away from the camera. He has brown hair and is wearing a navy tee.
Pete Gustin Outdoor Headshot

Hey, my name is Pete Gustin, and hopefully you recognize my voice at least a little bit. I’m a voice actor, and I’ve been featured on ABC, CBS, ESPN, Fox, from the exclusive voice of Fox News. I’ve won the award for outstanding movie trailer of the year, a couple years and was named one of the biggest voices in radio imaging, I think, six times. So hopefully, I’ve been coming out of your speakers and your television and your radio at some point.

But before all of that I was just a wee little tike with a girl’s voice before my voice changed. I mean, literally, I would, call my friends and their parents would be like, it’s either your friend Peter or a girl.

The Road To Diagnosis

But anyway, I was also suffering from a vision problem my entire life, but we didn’t realize it until I was eight years old. I guess when I was born, I was born with a defect on the ABCA4 gene which these days I guess some people would know is Stargardt’s disease. But back in 1985, when I was eight years old, the first eye doctor that we went to told my parents that I was just looking for attention.

They said there was absolutely nothing wrong with my eyes whatsoever. And the doctor actually called my mother into the office and was asking about my home life and whether my father was around enough and whether she paid enough attention. Like he literally just thought it was a big old fake out.

So but my parents didn’t believe that because I kept telling them, I can’t see stuff very well anymore. So we kept going to different different doctors, and eventually ended up at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute, and did a big long day of tests, which were no fun at all.

At the end of the day, it was like a nine hour day. And at the end of it, the doctor, a researcher came out and said, “your son has macular degeneration, his eyesight will continue to deteriorate.” And then he turned around and walked away and closed the door behind him. And that was all the information that we got.

We went home, of course and tried to find out some more information about it. And while we did want to Google “what is macular degeneration?” it was 1985 and there was no Google. So all we could do was try and look in our Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia. And once again, no information about macular degeneration.

A Dire Future Predicted

So I was diagnosed with a disease and we had no idea what it was going to do to me, how it was going to go or how it would affect me. We did get contacted by someone in the state that worked for the state of Massachusetts shortly thereafter.

Then the woman came over to our house and started to lay out my future. She said to my mother, who was at home at the time, my dad was at work and I was playing on the floor. She said “your son’s never going to be able to do the things that other kids do. He’s not gonna able to keep up with the classwork. He’s not gonna be able to read the books, he’s never gonna be able to have a regular job,” like she’s just laying out this horrible future.

And they wanted to enroll me right away in a bunch of state aid programs and started looking for a school for the blind for me to attend. And I think partially because we had no idea what to expect and I said hadn’t gotten that yet. And also partially because I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, but I had two very close cousins that were older than me to the point that when I was eight and getting diagnosed with macular degeneration, they were getting recruited by colleges. And one ended up going to Harvard and the other ended up going to MIT.

Learning To Compensate

And I think my mother was like, my sister’s kids are going to go to Harvard, MIT, and mine is going to go into some state program like no, she didn’t want that for me. And she refused all help to come, no help. We didn’t take any help. We didn’t go to any school. We didn’t do anything. We stayed, I stayed in the regular school with all the friends that have been going with my entire life. And I mean, it wasn’t easy, obviously.

I was needing large print books at first. And then when my eyesight got bad enough, I started needing books on tape. And everything was more difficult, of course. But I started learning at that early age that in order to do what I wanted to do with my life, I needed to start making compensations. I had to do things differently than other people. And that’s a lesson that I learned at an early age to keep up with everybody in the world that can see I had to do a lot more work. But that was the path that I was going to go down.

Preparing For Life After High School

When I graduated high school actually, when before I graduated high school, I went to my guidance counselor because I was interested in going to a college. I mean, I was one of the top students in my class and I had a lot of extracurriculars, I was president of the class I was captain of the sailing team.

I even played football in high school, which again, I wasn’t able to see the ball, but I could kinda see the other people. So I actually started playing offensive line when I was in high school because I figured if I can’t catch a ball, at least I can hit the fat kid on the other side of the line from me.

So I actually went crazy working out at the gym and got really strong strong legs strong base, and made it as a starter on the football team my senior year. So again, compensation. So I wanted to play football, I wanted to be with my friends, I wasn’t going to be able to play running back or receiver or really anything on defense. Because when you can’t see the ball, you can’t play football very well. But I wanted to play this sport with my friends. And I ended up being on the offensive line, which was a weird way to go for someone who’s 5’9″ 172 pounds, but I made it work.

Roadblock To Higher Education

And as I was graduating with all these accomplishments, and all this stuff under my belt, my guidance counselor said to me, “Well, you’re not gonna be able to go to college, do you understand the workload at college?” It was basically the same speech we got when I was eight years old.

She was like, there’s so much reading and so many tests and so much stuff and all these things that you’re going to be responsible for. And she literally gave me zero help. She’s like, you’re not going to go to college, it’s not going to happen.

University Life & Readapting

So I ended up applying to a bunch on my own. My mom and I did it together, and ended up getting into Boston University. My cousin went to Harvard across the river, I went to Boston University, I was still very happy to get there.

And as soon as I got there, I did realize that without my normal group of friends, that had been helping me for years, like kind of just instinctually, when they’re around someone who’s visually impaired, they kind of take care of you a little more like you go to a restaurant and they start reading the menu to you.

And without those friends without that support system, I did learn that it was going to be rather difficult. But again, it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to graduate, I wanted to get the degree. I studied mass communication, advertising, and neuro psychology when I was there.

And when I graduated, I graduated in three and a half years because I’d found radio when I was in college. I took an internship, very, very soon into my college career, I think a month or two in I took an internship at a talk radio station and immediately fell in love with audio production and voiceovers and the whole industry.

And there were opportunities out there waiting for me like my junior year, and I was like, but I’m still in school. How am I going to get these jobs if I’m still in school?

Pursuing A Career In Radio

So I expedited my college career graduated quickly and started out into the world trying to find how I’d make my way as a radio professional. I did get hired a day or so after college as the Creative Director for two radio stations in Boston, WEEI and WRKO one was a sports station, one was a talk station. It was the station that I’m interned for. And I got to write and create pieces that went on the air opens promos, rejoins all sorts of stuff, comedy bits, and I got to do some voicing.

Very shortly after that, I ended up in New York, because I decided I liked the creative director stuff. I liked producing the promos. But I really wanted to focus on voice. I just wanted to be a voice actor, like like, I just wanted to do that.

Roadblock To Voiceover Career

And I went to New York and a friend of mine set me up with an interview at the biggest agency in the world for voiceovers at the time. And I sat down with the biggest agent at the biggest agency who listened to my tape and was like, “Hey, you’re good, you’re very good. He’s like, but no one’s gonna want to work with you.” He explained, “no one’s gonna work with a visually impaired voice actor.”

And, you know, my process at the time was to grab a magnifying glass, if I go to an audition, they’d give me the script ahead of time. With a magnifying glass, I’d look at the words one word at a time, you know, when you need a new car, you know, whatever the promo or commercial was. And I kind of read it and then stick it in my head and memorize the script and recite it back, which worked, if I wanted to do like, you know, two or three reads a day.

But voiceovers is a volume business, you need to do a lot, a lot of reads every day. I mean, these days, I read probably about 75 different sessions a day, which is, again, that’s a really high end for voiceover guys, but you need to you need to have volume in order to make a living. And that’s what the guy was saying.

There was 1999, maybe 2000. And, you know, things were a little different back then he could literally say to me, “no one’s gonna want to work with you because you’re visually impaired.” And you know, we didn’t go running to the ADA and make a big stink. He was just stating a fact.
And so he kind of knocked me on my butt for a while. And I went back into radio doing creative director production stuff. And I did love that. But it was always kind of a, you know, I did want to be a voiceover guy.

Technology To The Rescue

And it wasn’t until a few years later that text to speech technology came around. And that’s when you know, in the very beginning, you could hit a button on your phone when a text came in, and it would read it to you know, your friend to be like, where are you trying to find you at Fenway Park? And that technology started to evolve pretty quickly to the point that I realized if I could read a text, that someone was sending to me, I could read a copy that someone wanted me to read for them.

And I started practicing with that I’m actually I’m in my studio right now this is the earbud that I use. When copy comes in, I put it in my earbud, or my ear, rather. And I listen to the robot voice, you know, saying, it’ll say like “tonight on Fox, it’s the biggest event of the century.” And then I hear it. And in real time, as I’m listening to it, I say, “tonight on Fox, it’s the biggest event of the century.”

And I started working with that program, it took a long time to listen to a robot voice. And then recite, not just even recite, but act like actually emote and act and give a performance. And in time, I did learn how to do that.

And now a number of years later, I’m reading, like I said, 75 sessions a day just as fast if not faster than other people that have to read their copy. Because I just stick it in my ear, and I go. So again, a compensation, it’s my life has been a big, long series of compensations and working harder than everybody else to achieve the goals that I’ve wanted to achieve.

Joy In Breaking Barriers

But there’s a lot of pleasure and satisfaction that’s derived from that when you have challenges in front of you. And people think that you’re not gonna be able to achieve them to break down those barriers to break those walls down and really show them how wrong they were. And to achieve the goals that you wanted is always been a driving force in my life.

Being in radio and being behind a microphone, and not in front of a camera did allow me to hide to a degree. I mean, I would act and I would perform, and I would do this stuff, and not ever let the people on the other end know that I was legally blind, losing my eyesight going blind. And I spent a long time much of my 30s really been trying to hide the fact that I was blind because of that bad experience I had when I was so much younger.

You know, I put out there, Hey, I can’t see and he’s like, “great, no one wants to work with you.” So that lesson that was taught to me was don’t let people know about your weakness, your disability.

Rise Of The Blind Surfer

Another action shot of Pete on his surf boad coming in to shore.
2nd Surfing Action Shot

But at a certain point, when I turned 40, hiding wasn’t an option anymore. Not in my mind and not in reality, it was becoming very difficult to fake people out.

Like today I walk with a blind guy cane with a service dog, I mean, you can’t fake that. So one of the things I decided to do was instead of hiding my blindness was to get out there and start raising a lot of awareness.

I started a YouTube channel called Blind Surfer. It was a sport that I thought that I could do. I mean, there was no way I could do basketball, tennis, golf, frisbee, you know, I just couldn’t do anything that involves a ball or something flying in my direction. But I thought maybe I’d learned how to surf.

And I’d moved from Boston to San Diego into a surfing community. And I mean, there is much more visually intensive stuff in surfing than I expected reading the waves is a huge portion of it. But in the whole, it’s something that I can do. And I can’t read the wave by looking at it like other people do.

But with a lot of practice, again, I’m always working harder than everybody else. A lot of practice a lot of time, I’ve learned how to navigate the wave by feel. And that channel that I started called Blind Surfer is I wanted to show people, you know, those two words Blind Surfer like how those go together.

I wanted people to look at and be like, holy crap, he’s blind and he surfs like wow. And we mix in some of the voiceover stuff. And I do a lot of skateboarding. I’ve done some rock climbing, knife throwing shooting guns, ax throwing, we’ve done a lot of stuff and surfed with some really famous people like Rob Machado that have helped spread the message. That just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean that you can’t do stuff, it just means you have to do it differently.

That’s what I keep trying to explain to people is that you lose your eyesight. And if you look at it, like “I can’t do this anymore,” like that’s a fail. Then you start having to shut down your life, you’re missing a part of the sentence you need to say, “I can’t do this the way I used to anymore,” it’s just an adjustment. So that’s what I was trying to show people with the way I live my life with that channel.

Social Media Influencer

I’ve put videos on Tik Tok that have gotten 10s of millions of views, I’m on Instagram as well. And I never thought I’d be a social media guy social media influencer but the the rewards for me putting this information out there that yes, you’ve lost your sight or anything, you know, whatever you’ve lost. You can’t function the way you used to. It doesn’t mean that your life’s over.

You need to still set your goals and think hard about how you want to achieve them. And it’s going to be different than everybody else. And it’s going to be harder. I mean, it’s just going to be harder. But if you want to achieve those goals, you still can and that’s the way I’ve been leading my life. And that’s the message I’ve been putting out for the past few years.

I mean, I hid for long enough. Now I’m sticking my face in front of the camera and trying to spread the message and it’s been really rewarding. I get reached out to quite a bit. Every day every week someone says, you know, I heard your message. I heard what you’re saying you’ve inspired me and that’s been the biggest gift to me. And so I appreciate the opportunity to share the story wherever I do it, like here and thank you for listening to me ramble on.

Connecting With Pete

Image Descriptions

  • Header, Beyond Sight Magazine Cover, and YouTube thumbnail contain the same action shot of Pete on his surfboard in the middle of a wave. Text on the cover reads “Beyond Sight March 2022 | Men In Motion | Pete Gustin.”
  • YouTube Video Description: In the video, Pete is sitting in his studio wearing a short-sleeve button-up shirt and surrounded by his voiceover equipment.
  • Outdoor headshot of Pete smiling and looking away from the camera. He has brown hair and is wearing a navy tee.
  • Another action shot of Pete on his surf boad coming in to shore.
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