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RespectAbility’s Madison Essig Interviews Born This Way’s Sean McElwee

To celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, we’re sharing this conversation between Born This Way’s Sean McElwee and one of our Communications Apprentices, Madison Essig. Both Essig and McElwee are self-advocates with Down syndrome.


>> Madison Essig: My name is Madison Essig and I am a Communications Apprentice at RespectAbility. I am also a senior at George Mason University, majoring in Social Justice Human Rights. I was born with Down syndrome. I am honored to have the opportunity to know Sean McElwee, who you might know from the great show Born This Way. Sean is also the founder of Seanese, a t-shirt company. Sean, so pleased you are with us tonight and look forward to learning more about you.

>> Sean McElwee: Nice to meet you!

>> Madison Essig: Nice to meet you too. So if you’re okay, we can just jump straight into the interview questions.

>> Sean McElwee: Sounds good.

>> Madison Essig: Okay, great. So my first question is just asking how did you get involved with Born This Way?

>> Sean McElwee: They found me at Down syndrome Association of Orange county and I auditioned.

>> Madison Essig: The next question I am asking is what did you like best about being on the show?

>> Sean McElwee: Becoming famous, so everyone realize me when I’m out in public, and I make people happy to meet me.

>> Madison Essig: That’s amazing, and I have seen you spoke at the Race for Respect, so that is great to hear. How do you think Born This Way impacted the public perception of individuals with Down syndrome?

>> Sean McElwee: They aren’t afraid to talk to me anymore, and know that people with Down syndrome have some hope and dreams that everyone else does.

>> Madison Essig: And that makes complete sense, I 100 percent agree with you on that, that’s very very important. My next question is since Born This Way ended, what have you been doing? We would love to know more about Seanese!

>> Sean McElwee: I work on a golf course, and I sell my t-shirts at events and my — on my website, I have more than 150 designs, and 100 more there that I want to do.

>> Madison Essig: That’s amazing, and I’ll just ask a follow-up on that. With the 150 designs, what are some of those designs?

>> Sean McElwee: Beer, burritos and babes.

>> Madison Essig: That’s [chuckling] — that’s really great.

>> Sean McElwee: Oh, and here’s one more thing. I got a newest design, it’s called “Watch Me.”

>> Madison Essig: That’s a really nice design actually, I really like that.

>> Sean McElwee: Thank you.

>> Madison Essig: You’re welcome. And since, you know, this month is Down syndrome awareness month, I did have a question regarding that, because it’s a major holiday that I love to celebrate, and I know you do as well. So my question is asking what does Down syndrome awareness month mean to you personally?

>> Sean McElwee: It’s a great way to help people know that about Down syndrome and everything we can accomplish, just like everyone else.

>> Madison Essig: And that’s — I absolutely agree. I mean, I also — this month for Down syndrome awareness is also very personal to me as well, for many reasons, and that also includes respecting people with Down sydrome, so we align in that very well. The question is asking [what] advice would you give to other people with Down syndrome?

>> Sean McElwee: Don’t give up on your dreams. Work hard, and be [ready] for any opportunity comes around.

>> Madison Essig: It was great to meet you! Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you today, and good luck to you in your future endeavors!

Meet the Author

Madison Essig

Madison Essig hopes to report on disability issues or to have a job on Capitol Hill where she can advocate for disability issues. She was the first person with Down syndrome to graduate with a full diploma from the District of Columbia Public School system.

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