Lauren Potter was born for show business. At age 3 she was already studying dance. She made her acting debut at age 16, and soon after that, turned her love for singing into a major role in the hit musical TV show “Glee.” She recently produced and starred in the indie film “Guest Room,” which premiered at the South by Southwest festival last year. These are a lot of achievements for a 26-year-old, and she’s done it all in spite of dealing with Down syndrome.

Dreaming big

“I always tell people,” says Potter, “to only listen to those people who tell you that you can do it, not those who tell you that you can’t.” These are words everyone can relate to, and it’s by focusing on perseverance and knowing herself, rather than focusing on her disability, that Potter has succeeded. “Don’t be afraid to dream big,” says Potter, “And if you do the hard work to get there, your dreams can come true.”

MORE UP THAN DOWN: Operating under the mindset of listening to the positive and filtering out the negative, Potter has never let Down syndrome get in the way of achieving her dreams.

However, just because Potter had the power to achieve great things doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a struggle. “I think maybe people look at me and think I can’t do things because I have Down syndrome,” says Potter, “I have to prove myself over and over again.” This doesn’t just apply to her professional life, but also to the extra challenges in making friends and building the life of an independent young woman.

Fighting stigma

Having worked hard in spite of the challenges of her disability, Potter has indeed proven herself (winning several SAG awards along the way). This has helped her gain a platform to make people aware of the stigmas against the differently-abled. She was appointed to President Obama’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities as an advisor on Down syndrome. She’s participated in the Abilitypath anti-bullying campaign. She’s used her recognition to promote organizations like the Wylie Center, the Down Syndrome Congress and the National Down Syndrome Society.

“‘I always tell people,’ says Potter, ‘to only listen to those people who tell you that you can do it, not those who tell you that you can’t.’”

Potter is also trying to take the focus off of disabilities themselves and make us look more at the human beings who live with them. With her venture last year, “Guest Room,” Potter produced as well as starred in a film about a character dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. By watching a character with Down syndrome deal with something other than their disability, audiences are able to see more than a person’s condition.

Always growing

Most important, though, is that despite her achievements in acting and activism, Potter remains humbly committed to bettering herself. “I have learned to still be myself and not let the success I’ve had so far go to my head,” says Potter, “I just want to keep growing, learning and getting better.” Her emphasis on working hard despite life’s challenges can be a source of inspiration to not just the disability community, but to anyone, no matter their struggle.