Lauren Potter serves as an advocate for special needs children and adults. (Photo courtesy Russell Baer)
Lauren Potter, 25, has taken up causes ranging from speaking out against bullies to serving as an ambassador for the Special Olympics World Games, which were held in Los Angeles in July and August.
Her anti-bullying advocacy includes a video she made with her mother, Robin Sinkhorn, promoting abilitypath.org and its effort to end bullying of children with special needs.
She’s also serving with the International Board of Best Buddies and its joint campaign with Special Olympics, “R Word: Spread the Word to End the Word.” It’s an awareness effort that seeks to end the inappropriate and thoughtless use of the word “retarded.” Post Glee, she starred in the short film Guest Room, playing a young woman with Down syndrome who must decide how to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. The film was released in March.
She was in Richmond on Oct. 10 for the ninth annual Step UP for Down Syndrome 5K & Family Festival at the Innsbrook Pavilion. The event is a celebration of the accomplishments and abilities of Richmond area residents with Down syndrome.
Potter recently talked with us by email about her acting career and her advocacy work. Here’s what she had to say.
Richmond magazine: You’ve always wanted to be an actress since you were a child. You were able to make your dream come true, and you have worked for several years now in movies and on television. What is it about acting that you love so much?
Potter: I love reading scripts and memorizing them and making them come to life. I also love hanging out with cool cast and crew friends.
RM: Growing up, especially in the teen years, can be tough for any child, but having Down syndrome presents its own set of unique challenges that you had to face and overcome. Can you tell us a little about your experience growing up, and what struggles you faced?
Potter: It was tough to be understood by others because they didn’t understand that I was the same as them but was a little different, too. I had to face bullying by people I went to school with.
RM: What advice can you give to the parents of a child with Down syndrome, who are not sure how to go about supporting and encouraging their son or daughter to achieve all they can?
Potter: You guys are very lucky to have a child with a disability. My parents were happy and proud of having a daughter with an intellectual disability. This made a big difference to me. Love your child and support her and she will always surprise you.
RM: Since getting the part of Becky on Glee, you have become known nationwide, and many young people with disabilities see you as a role model. How has this changed your life?
Potter: It has given me the chance of a lifetime to go many places and meet thousands of people to tell them how wonderful life can be. I also love it when someone recognizes me in public and asks for an autograph or to take a picture with me!
RM: What makes you sad? What makes you the happiest?
Potter: When relationships get difficult, it is frustrating and sad for me. When I’m out dancing and singing karaoke with my friends, (that) makes me the happiest.
RM: What are your hopes and aspirations?
Potter: Getting more roles for TV and movies, roles that aren’t just for people with Down syndrome. Getting married to a lovely husband. I don’t want kids, but love being an aunt.