It’s crazy how easy it is to get sucked into reality TV. On any given night of the week you can watch JoJo fall in love with 25 men, Maci and Amber advocate against teen pregnancy, Kim, Khloe and Kourtney doing something “normal” in expensive jumpsuits, or Simon Cowell’s brutal honesty about some whacky talent.
A&E’s hit reality show Born This Way follows the lives of 10 young adults as they take on family drama, new roommates, and the challenges of dating and marriage. It’s similar to most other reality shows on TV like MTV’s The Real World because it features a cast of diverse young adults, navigating the world around them.
Both Born This Way and The Real World were created by reality TV pioneer Jonathan Murray. The only difference? The young adults in the A&E hit series all have Down syndrome.
Murray had no connection to the Down syndrome community when he first introduced the concept of the show. But his success has always come from his commitment to bringing underrepresented communities to the screen.
“I always felt that we grew up in our own little segmented worlds,” Murray explained, adding that television provides the opportunity to break down those walls and start important conversations.
Sandra McElwee’s son Sean is one of the cast members on the show. She says that the majority of the population don’t know anybody with Down syndrome. Born This Way has been a game-changer because now people know 10 people with Down syndrome—a community that they’d never known before.
“Knowing people and knowing their lives and seeing they’re just like everyone else takes away from the fear—and when you take away the fear, it opens up doors,” Sandra explained.
Born This Way’s first season turned out to be an unexpected hit for A&E, with more than an 80 percent rise in viewership.
The success of the show has led to its second season, which airs tonight on A&E, proving that these young adults are more than their disorder.
Watch the trailer for the second season of Born This Way, and check out the full episode tonight on A&E.