Born This Way Is Paving the Way!
Born This Way
Born This Way is an American reality television series produced by Bunim/ Murray Productions. The series features seven adults with Down syndrome who inspire others and send a powerful message to society as they work hard to achieve goals and overcome obstacles. Born This Way, which launched its fourth season last week (and currently nominated for several Emmys), follows the lives of a group of young adults living with Down syndrome in Southern California. The show has been both a critical and cultural phenomenon. In addition to its past EMMY wins, and this year’s nominations, Born This Way also won the Critics Choice Award earlier this year for best unstructured reality series.
Inclusion is an important and hot topic in the news and on social media. The show and cast are bringing a message that needs to be seen, told and heard into millions of homes worldwide regarding inclusion. The young adults in Born This Way have goals and aspirations of their own.
We spoke with John Tucker, Rachel Osterbach, and Sean McElwee to find out how they feel about being a “TV celebrity” and role model, and learn what some of their personal aspirations are and how they’re working to achieve them.
Rachel Osterbach is quite accomplished; she is an actress, inspirational speaker, a Gold Medalist and global messenger with Special Olympics, holds down a job in the mailroom of an insurance company, and she has been appointed to the Govenor’s Council of Mental Disabilities in California. With her red hair and infectious smile, she’s a great friend to everyone in the cast and dreams of traveling the world as an advocate for disabilities.
Q: How do you find the time for everything?
A: I make the time for it and my boss is so understanding. If I have to go to the Emmys and I had to take off the next day, it’s fine with them.
Q: WOW, you have a great boss! Last year at the Emmys, you and John made history as the first people with Down syndrome to be televised and present an award. What was that like being on the Emmy’s?
A: Well, it was a dream-come-true of mine. It’s my favorite part of the show being a presenter.
Q: Were you nervous to speak in front of everybody?
A: No, I wasn’t, I was just myself and I pretended nobody’s there.
Q: I read a quote that said, “Rachel is a reflection of the love and strength of an inspiring family.” So tell me a little bit about your family.
A: Awwwwe. I have a very supportive family. My parents and brother are very supportive.
Q: I also heard that you’re the Maid of Honor for Cristina’s wedding. When you’re a Maid of Honor, what kind of duties & responsibilities did you have?
A: My duties are to help her breathe and just get her calm, and be with her whenever she needs me. I was there for dress shopping. That was really fun.
Q: Who is the coolest person you’ve met since becoming a TV star?
A: Adam Lambert. I got to meet him, back in season one.
Q: What’s the best part of being a TV celebrity?
A: Meeting a lot of famous stars and going to the Emmys. And I also get to overcome my fears.
Q: Your fears? So what fear have you overcome?
A: Going to concerts because I had a fear of loud noises. And back in season two, I got over my fear of camping.
Q: I heard that you are a great friend to everyone in the cast. What does it take to be a great friend?
A: Yes, I am a great friend. I’m good at keeping secrets. I tell nobody else. I have two closest friends: Christina and Meghan.
Q: What are your thoughts about the show and its message to society? What do you think the message is that society is receiving?
A: Well, that anybody can reach their goals and their dreams. And all you have to do is just be yourself and follow your heart.
Q: As a role model, what advice or message would you like to share with others?
A: People with Down syndrome or different abilities can do anything they want to do. There’s another thing we all need: Friendship.
Q: Thank you, Rachael, for making a difference for all of our kids out there, and for paving the way for other children that are coming up behind you.
A: You’re welcome. That was our goal.
Mom (Post Script): I think the amazing thing is the feedback that we also get from people who don’t have disabilities. From teenagers that watch her show just because they can relate to us because they’re bullied, or they’re over weight, or because they suffer from anxiety. We have had so many people who just feel different, who can relate to our show. That has been the biggest accomplishment for us.
Born This Way star, Sean McElwee, is a businessman and owner of a successful T-Shirt Company named Seanese (www.seanese.com). The name is a play on Sean’s name and because when he was younger, no one could understand him. Sean’s mom would often translate and tell others Sean speaks his own language: Sean-ese. Sean uses his own personal, funny phrases and sayings and has a graphic artist create the t-shirt designs. Sean has final approval. In addition to business, he is an excellent golfer and avid sportsman, and a self-professed ladies’ man who is “not shy”. We asked Sean to share with us a series of questions and answers.
Q: Who is the coolest person you’ve met since being a TV star? What’s the best part about being a TV celebrity? Any perks?
A: Coolest Person: That’s easy, it’s Caley Versfelt, my girlfriend. As for the best part of being a celebrity, well, I love getting all the attention…haha. And, yes, I do get to go to the Emmy Awards and other events.
Q: Who is the funniest or craziest person on the show with you?
A: I know that by heart: Caley and Christina. Those two drive me crazy a lot, in a good way.
Q: What impact do you hope that the show/series has on society?
A: BTW shows the world that just because people have disabilities, they can still do things. They are capable.
Q: As a role model to others, what advice or message do you think is the most important for others to hear, and that you would like to share with others?
A: I’m different and that’s a great thing because we are all a gift.
Q: Do you have any new t-shirt designs coming out for this season? Can you share with us your favorite-shirt or phrase from this new line…and why is it your favorite?
A: The newest ones are the “Born to” Designs. It’s my business so they are all my business. It makes me happy. “Born to Be Me” is my favorite because it’s all about me, my life, my future, and awesome disabilities. Down syndrome is not bad.
Q: Do you have a dream-goal for your business Seanese?
A: I’m looking forward to the next chapter; a future house, a future lady, a future hobby and to become the new Justin Bieber. And I hope I sell a lot of shirts so I can donate more for new baby baskets at Down Syndrome Associations!
What do you do when you’re in school and you crave the spotlight? And what do you do if you also happen to have Down syndrome? The answer is easy…you go to Hollywood and get on a hit show! John Tucker did just that.
Q: So, when did you start becoming an entertainer?
A: Basically, I started in high school and what happened was I became a hip-hop dancer first. A lot of the kids and the teachers knew that I could really dance. So, then I started to try out more of my talents and the talent that I recently discovered is I can really rap, I can flow. So, I literally knew that what I did when I was a dancer was moving to the beat. So, with rapping, it was the same thing.
Q: Right. Along with being on the show, you aspire to be a rapper and write more of your own original songs or raps?
A: Yes. I recently put out my first album and I had the number one song on YouTube with Shake that Booty. That was the first song I ever did and now I’m in the process of working on my second album.
Q: Who is the coolest person you’ve met since becoming a TV personality?
A: This is funny…we got a ride to a game show called Shazam with Jamie Fox and when I saw him, I was like, “Oh my god, you are so hilarious,” and now, I watch all his shows since I met him in person and I got to rap for him, too. He’s a singer and he has a sister with Down syndrome.
Q: What’s the best part of being a TV celebrity?
A: I think that when people see me on TV and they see what I’m doing and rapping and the acting that it would actually inspire other people to do what they want to do in their lives.
Q: Okay John, this is the fourth season, do you learn to drive?
A: I do! Oh my god. That’s funny. Yes. I cannot believe you asked me that question. The show it comes out today and I’m going to have to drive. I’m trying to be more independent because I can’t have my mama drive me all my life because when she’s old, she’s going to be acting old. So, I’ll be driving myself. I have to drive. I have to live more independently.
Q: So, you’re still learning though, is that right?
A: Yeah. I’m still learning. I haven’t taken the test yet but I will one day.
Q: Do you have any secret talents that we haven’t heard about yet?
A: Secret talents? I love to sing. It’s just going to be on my second album because on the first album that I put out, I wasn’t singing, I was only rapping. So, this album’s going to be rapping AND singing.
Q: When is that coming out?
A: That will be coming out on my birthday, December 8th, 2018.
Q: What do you hope the impact of Born This Way is and what is its message to society?
A: That with people with different disabilities can have their own dreams. I want to tell them…Just don’t give up on those dreams because you don’t know when that change will come. So, that’s what the show is actually sending out: a really positive message for kids with Down syndrome and all different disabilities.
Q: Where do you get your dancing genes from, your mom or dad?
A: My father… he’s and old Marvin Gaye type of dancer. I’m the new generation dancer. So, it’s like old to the new.
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2018 Magazine