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Cristina with fiance Angel

Cristina Sanz: First Hispanic with a Disability to Win an Emmy Award

headshot of Cristina Sanz wearing a blue top

Cristina Sanz

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Fans of the hit A&E docu-series Born this Way know Cristina Sanz as a lovable, fun and family-oriented dancer and romantic. Last year, Sanz became the first Hispanic woman with a disability to win an Emmy award.

When Born This Way won the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series last year, it made history for being not only the first show to win an Emmy that stars people with disabilities but also for having a cast that includes people with disabilities who are African American, Hispanic and Asian.

“Even though people of all races, genders and sexual orientation have disabilities, the media tends to only show white characters,” Born This Way Producer Jonathan Murray said. “John, Cristina and Elena have Down syndrome, but they also are the first individuals from the African American, Hispanic and Asian community with a disability to earn an Emmy. This is a breakthrough for those minority communities as well.”

Sanz also did something that her parents never imagined—she moved out of the house, works at two jobs and became engaged to her boyfriend of five years, Angel.

“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, Cristina Sanz is the first of her siblings to be getting married now.

Cristina and her parents facing the camera and smiling with a red curtain behind them

Cristina Sanz with her parents

The Sanz family is heritage-oriented. Originally from Spain, they frequently are shown cooking Spanish dishes, speaking Spanish and dancing to Latin music in their kitchen and living rooms.

Her father, Mariano Sanz, recently spoke with Ability Magazine about how his daughter and the cast of Born this Way have shown the world what he understands as a father of a girl with disabilities – that they are all different and their families, as well as other families of kids with Down syndrome, now have a lot to look forward to.

“One of the things, that I’m hoping is coming across from the show is how different they all are. You know, sometimes, people pre-judge Down syndrome and they lump everyone who has Down syndrome into one kind of person. And yes, they’re all beautiful children, they’re angels, they’re marvelous, and sometimes we get the feeling that they’re all the same. And they’re not. They’re not the same. They are very different from each other and they have their own personalities and you know, the families who are having kids with Down syndrome right now who are very young, the families in this new generation growing up, they have a lot to look forward to,” Mariano Sanz said.

Born This Way cast and producers celebrating their Emmy win on stage at the Emmy Awards. Executive Producer Jonathan Murray holds the Emmy Award.

Born This Way cast and producers celebrating their Emmy win in 2016.

Cristina Sanz returned to the Emmy red carpet this year with the cast of Born This Way, which took home two more Emmys including one for casting. On the carpet, her fun-loving and caring personality shone through in an interview with Mingle Media.

“If you guys watch all of us on the show, then I hope you guys will love it, we have a great show, and we’re coming out with Season 4, so I hope you have a great time,” she said.

Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, Born This Way, an unscripted reality show, follows the lives of seven adults with Down syndrome and their families who live in Southern California. The groundbreaking show has been nominated for nine Emmy awards, winning three, in the past two years. Born this Way breaks down stigmas surrounding disability by focusing on the cast members’ everyday lives, including Cristina and Angel’s love story and desire for independence.

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.

Fully one-in-five Americans have a disability and polls show that most of them want to work. Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce. There are 4,869,400 Latinx/Hispanics living with a disability in the U.S. Only 37 percent of working-age Latinx/Hispanics with disabilities are employed in the U.S. compared to 73.9 percent of working-age Latinx/Hispanics without disabilities. Sanz is proof that this does not have to be the norm.

As she discussed in a recent episode of Born This Way, 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 during the episode.

Meet the Author

Theresa Maher
Theresa Maher

Theresa Maher is a Communications Fellow at RespectAbility and a junior at American University. Her drive to advocate for people with disabilities started young when she realized her mother's students in special education and her uncle with autism were not accurately portrayed in Hollywood.

6 comments… add one
  • Eugenia Clark May 26, 2018, 9:50 am

    I am so proud of this show. Cristina and Angel are adorable and I know they are going to make it work. I cry every time I hear John’s song, Wherever I Go.

    • sheri Sep 6, 2018, 5:51 pm

      I have been watching your show since the beginning and I truly think it’s the best reality show on TV. Christina and Angel’s wedding was so perfect in every way.
      When Christina danced her first dance she looked like an angel.
      She and Angel are excellent dancers!
      There is so much love shown in this show, it makes you feel so great just watching it.
      These people are so adorable, smart, caring and loving.
      Keep doing what you are doing–it’s great!
      Sheri

  • Sharron Lauder Sep 15, 2018, 9:49 pm

    I am grandmother of 3 beautiful grandsons and love to watch a Born this Way I think it is one of the most Informative interesting educational programs I have ever been totally caught up in. Congratulations to all the cast and especially the parents what a fabulous job you have all done with your children and for all those other parents out there who will be
    Merit so so much from this reality program….

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