'Born This Way' is the reality TV show we all need to see.

"We have Down syndrome. Don't limit us."

Seven words that say it all.

The opening line for the Season 2 trailer of "Born This Way" is a perfect depiction of the reality TV show that's opening the eyes of millions.


Left to right: Cristina, Steven, Rachel, Sean, Elena, John, Megan. All images via A&E, used with permission.

The hit show from A&E features seven young men and women as they follow their passions and navigate life with Down syndrome.

Whether it's John pursuing his music career or Elena figuring out how to express her feelings, "Born This Way" is an important and refreshing take on reality TV — probably because it actually feels realistic. And it's about time.

1 in 5 Americans have a disability, but you wouldn't know that from the little amount of representation in the media. And when it's there, it's often wrong.

"Born This Way" is working to get it right.


"I don't want the whole society to limit me because I have this," says cast member Megan, who is all sorts of amazing as a motivational speaker, college student, and manager of her own clothing company.

In the show, you also meet Steven, who considers himself the Matt Damon of the crew; Rachel, who works at an insurance company and is out to find love; and Cristina, who hopes to take the next step with her long-term boyfriend by moving in with him.

The show is not only entertaining audiences through a reality TV lens, but it's educating them, too.

Studies show that people with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, can work successfully, live relatively independently, and be incredibly productive members of society.

With about 400,000 people in the United States living with Down syndrome, "Born This Way" is an intimate and supportive way to help bust some of the misconceptions many have about the syndrome.

Each cast member has their own persona with their own hobbies and obstacles they face during taping. Some focus on their jobs, some on romance, some on living more independently and working on their self-confidence. They are defined beyond their disability.

The show takes you through the good, the bad, and the just plain "whatever" moments. You know: the moments we all have.

"I'm here. I'm alive. I'm human. We have to stick together and be the person we are, because we're all humans," says cast member and music man John.

A show that's moving and helps us understand each other a little better? Yes, please.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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