Fans of the hit A&E docu-series Born this Way know Cristina Sanz as a lovable, fun and family-oriented dancer and romantic. In 2016, Sanz became the first Hispanic woman with a disability as part of an ensemble cast to be on an Emmy award-winning show.
In 2018, she shattered stigmas by getting married to her longtime fiancé Angel Callahan.
The two already had been dating for five years before the show premiered. Their desire to live an independent life together—and get married—was a consistent plot line throughout the show. The first season ended with their engagement; the fourth season finale was an hour-long episode featuring the wedding between these two individuals with developmental disabilities.
“I wanted to show everyone that you can have a disability and get married,” Sanz told People magazine.
Her wedding, moving out on her own and working at two jobs are things her parents never imagined as Cristina was growing up.
“I will not wake up waiting for my daughter to come back from a date like my mother did for me,” her mother, Beatriz Sanz, said she used to think. But Sanz was the first of her siblings to get married.
While studies show many people within the Hispanic and other communities do not publicly discuss their own or a child’s disability due to negative stigmas, Sanz and her parents lead by example by allowing television viewers to watch her life unfold on TV. Therefore, she is an important example of RespectAbility’s #RespectTheAbility campaign, which features people with disabilities who succeed in their chosen career.
When disability is depicted in pop culture, it tends to be all white. Real storytelling requires exploring people of all backgrounds. In addition, far too many Hispanics and Latinos in America who have a developmental disability are not receiving the diagnosis, school accommodations and high expectations they need to succeed. Today, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school, and only 7 percent complete college.
“[Born This Way] tells our stories, our dreams,” Sanz said. “People can see that our lives are most of the time very typical. People with disabilities have jobs, fall in love, have businesses and enjoy time with friends.”
Our nation’s economy is strongest when it is inclusive of the value that diverse talent brings to the workplace. Harriet Tubman had epilepsy, performer Selena Gomez lives with lupus, business leader and Shark Tank superstar Barbara Corcoran is dyslexic and gymnast Simone Biles has ADHD. Each of them, like Sanz, is a positive role model for success.
Sanz works for her dad’s school as well as at a senior center. Our nation’s economy is strongest when it is inclusive of the value that diverse talent brings to the workplace. Celebrities like Sanz are making a difference.
“What Cristina really inspired us, is that we want to focus on the abilities of everybody—not what people can’t do, but what they can do,” Elaine Hall, founder of the Miracle Project, said.