Fashion Television

Published On:

April 28, 2022

Watch Rachel Romu discuss Breaking Character with Dina Pugliese on Fashion Television!

Episode Synopsis

A docu-series following journeys of performers with disabilities

Dina is joined by activist Rachel Romu to talk about 'Breaking Character', a docu-series that follows the lives of six disabled performers as they hustle to make their mark in the entertainment industry.

Video Transcript

[Visual description: Upbeat music plays while the Breaking Character trailer is on screen.]

[Trailer Audio] "Breaking Character".

Means to me.

–to me...

[Dina] All right, we need to watch this docu-series it's airing tonight and it follows the lives of six disabled performers and their struggles breaking into the entertainment industry. Despite there being more than 6 million Canadian self-identifying as having a disability. Disabled performers make up only 3% of the industry. Joining us this morning to tell us about the docu-series called "Breaking Character" is model, musician and activist, Rachel Romu. Good morning, how are you?

[Visual Description: Scene switches to split screen of Dina and Rachel. Interview swaps between full screen views of Rachel and the split screen.]

[Rachel] Good morning, Dina. I'm so glad to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

[Dina] I should say welcome back because we just had Jessica Penetta, our fashionista on the show earlier, and you've been on BT as a model doing just that with Jessica. So, let's talk about this show. Let's talk about your disabilities and how it's a platform for all of us to learn and grow from.

[Rachel] Definitely "Breaking Character" has been such an incredible experience. It follows six different performers with disabilities. And it's not only revolutionary because of the visibility it creates on camera but it's also disability-led, Michelle Asgarali, the series producer, is probably the first disabled producer to do a documentary series in Canada.

[Dina] And you know what? There's a term I had never heard before. And this is why these segments are so incredibly important and shows like this called "cripping up". What does that mean?

[Rachel] Cripping up, is when somebody puts on disability as though it's a costume. It's how most disability visibility takes place in television and film. When an abled actor will put on a disability to play the role. And it's something that's not only still appropriate but also applauded. It's frustrating when we don't even get to tell our own stories on TV.

[Dina] So, let's hear some of yours right now, Rachel. Share some of yours.

[Rachel] I started modeling because I used to be a athlete on Team Canada. I had a spinal tumor change my course. It also led to the discovery that I have a connective tissue disease called Elhers-Danlos syndrome, which is rare and usually takes a long time to get diagnosed. But I wanted to find a way to reconnect with my body as well as create disability visibility, 'cause I was only seeing these fake representations. And it's been meaningful to have this as an outlet to feel confident again.

[Dina] And I just told you during the commercial break I've never said it publicly, but I was recently diagnosed with EDS as well. And it's one of those things like you said that often doesn't go diagnosed and it's called the Clumsy Disease 'cause we often get injured and it might be something for people to laugh at until you get diagnosed. It's the connective tissue disease and we have hyper loose ligaments and so it can lead to injury and it's something we have to be mindful of for all of our lives. So thank you for giving me the courage to talk about it for the first time on air today too. What are you hoping this show will do for everybody watching?

[Rachel] I hope that "Breaking Character" explains to people that with access, disabled people are able to do pretty much whatever they want. It's when the access point is met, we are talented. We are innovative. We are creative. We are just like everyone else. So long as we have that barrier taken away.

[Dina] So it does premiere tonight. Have you seen it? Are you gonna be watching it for the first time? What you're looking forward to?

[Rachel] I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of one of the episodes, 'cause my parents were in town visiting last weekend. And it's so exciting. I've gotten to meet some of the cast outside of filming as well. I went to a concert with Tai recently. It's so incredibly moving to learn about all these other people's experiences as well, because we all have disabilities and we all have different experiences as a result.

[Dina] Yes, everybody makes sure you watch it. It actually premieres tonight. Do you know where we could watch "Breaking Character"?

[Rachel] It can be watched on AMI, which is a part of most basic cable packages as well as online

[Dina] Rachel, you're amazing. This is like the first step towards hopefully the new path, right? The more and more people get it. And you get a cast, you get booked and this becomes the new normal because it does affect so many of us and there needs to be more representation. Love to you, Rachel. You're amazing.

[Rachel] Thank you so much. And thank you for joining in on the representation, Dina. I appreciate you sharing your own story.

[Dina] You inspired me with your strength. Thank you so much. All right, everybody,

[Rachel] Thanks.

[Dina] lots more BT to come.

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