‘Born This Way’ Star Rachel Osterbach Talks Independence for Those With Down Syndrome

Having just completed its third season on A&E, the docuseries “Born This Way,” which focuses on young adults with Down Syndrome, took home an 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series, and is nominated again in that category for 2017, along with five other nominations.

The show has done much to raise the profile of people with Down Syndrome and acknowledge, along with the challenges, their capabilities, accomplishments, aspirations (which are much like anyone else’s) and essential humanity.

Among the young people profiled is Rachel Osterbach, 34, of Fountain Valley, California, who works for a local insurance company. She graduated with her class from Edison High School, and attended a Regional Occupational Program at Orange Coast College.

From a 2014 piece about her in the Orange County Register:

Her father, Gary Osterbach, says his daughter has always been a positive person who has never let any setback bring her down.

“She has inspired me and my wife with her positive attitude,” he said. “We’re very proud of her.”

He said he heard about the voluntary board position through the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County, of which Rachel is a member.

Rachel Osterbach also is a charter member of the Toastmasters Gavel Club and one of 15 global messengers in Orange County for the Special Olympics. She was an avid participant in her younger days and has collected more than 100 medals in basketball, bocce ball, soccer, track and field and rhythmic gymnastics. As a global messenger, she acts as an ambassador speaking about the Special Olympics.

Osterbach also has her own IMDB page, listing her as an actress.

I recently conducted an email interview with Osterbach about her life and aspirations:

What is the biggest misconception you think people have of those with Down syndrome?

People think that if you have Down Syndrome that you cannot do very much – that is not true.

Much of the conversation about Down Syndrome focuses on children — but of course they grow up. What is the show teaching about what it’s like to live as an adult with Down syndrome?

The show is teaching people that individuals with Down Syndrome can lead an independent life – they can hold a job, they can have a relationship with a partner, they can overcome fears, and they can have goals and dreams and achieve them – like everybody else.

Many parents are very afraid of having a child with Down syndrome. What would you like to say to them?

Don’t be afraid because your son or daughter can achieve anything and can find great happiness in life.You will laugh with them, you will cry with them, you will enjoy their successes with them and be there for them when they are struggling, just like you would with any child.

What do you like about your current job?

I love being with my co-workers and being part of a team. I also enjoy my work in the mailroom – opening and sorting mail, receiving and sending emails, and being sure that everything gets done on time.

What makes you interested in acting?

Acting is my dream – what I like most is that it gives me a chance to express all different emotions.

What did it mean to you for the show to win at the Emmys?

It meant a lot to me – it meant that people loved the show and it made me proud to be part of it. I also got to go on stage with the cast to accept the Emmy which was presented to us by Julianne Hough and Vanessa Hudgens – a moment I will never forget.

Which challenge that you’ve overcome makes you the most proud?

I am most proud of the fact that I have overcome my fear of loud noises and crowds, which has enabled me now to attend concerts and plays that I never would have been able to attend before.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I see myself being married, living with my husband independently,and being a famous actress.

Here’s a clip of Osterbach’s favorite singer, Adam Lambert, helping her overcome her fears:

And another that shows her with fellow “Born This Way” cast members:

No airdate has yet been set for a fourth season.

Full episodes are available online (if you have a cooperating cable provider) or through Amazon Prime Video.

Image: Courtesy Rachel Osterbach

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  • Michelle Bowden Lonie

    She is a fantastic woman with a great attitude and I feel she is going to be very successful in her acting career! Can’t wait to see her on the big screen!