Actress Rachel Miner stole the hearts of daytime viewers with her portrayal of Guiding Light's Michelle Bauer in the early 90s, and now she's tugging on fans' hearts yet again. The New York City native, who revealed in 2013 that she has multiple sclerosis, is now tackling auditions in a wheelchair.
Miner took to Twitter with a photo of herself at a recent acting audition, writing, "Feels right to mark this moment, first audition in my wheelchair. Big thanks to all of you who've encouraged me to go back to this acting thing. #RepresentationMatter"
The GL alum's message instantly garnered a flood of responses, many of which thanked the actress for being an inspiration and for showing the world that disabilities and diseases don't always win.
Miner was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010 and went public with her diagnosis in 2013, after having hidden her condition for several years from even her closest friends. She reveals that as her MS became more debilitating, she chose to stop pursuing acting roles, particularly because the ones she'd previously played were women whose strength was tied to their physicality.
"I found that I was reading scripts literally measuring how many steps I would have to take, and how to stay balanced and stuff like that. It kind of lost whatever artistic joy and inspiration I had as an artist," she told Hypable in 2017. "I loved really and fully embodying other people, and I was so focused on whatever pain I was in, and the difficulty I was having physically, that it didn't feel like I could really do my job as well anymore."
She insists, however, that, "it wasn't a sad thing, it wasn't an 'oh, woe is me' thing. It was just like, I didn't know where I fit in the world, and so a lot of the paradigms that I had in place were suddenly challenged and I knew I couldn't fit the role I had been playing in the world. I really liked the idea of being a strong woman for young girls to look up to, especially as Meg in Supernatural, the role I thought I had was, 'Okay, I'm going to be this example of strength, and female empowerment, and all that.' And so when I started having the physical disability it challenged that to such a degree that I felt like, well that's a failure, I can't do that."
Eventually, the multitude of fans who asked her to keep appearing at conventions and fan gatherings helped Miner understand the value and power of her diagnosis; she now knows that being a visible woman with a disability is an example of strength to those in similar circumstances.
"It's given me a new purpose, and a new role, and I feel very, very happy and fulfilled, more so than ever," Miner says. "It has brought me to a place where across the years I've evolved to going 'Well, maybe it is really good to be out there with a physical disability, it doesn't mean I'm less of a person,' and to be able to interact and be a full human, and a happy human, just with a different strategic situation."
Miner's recent decision to not let a wheelchair prevent her from acting comes in the midst of the entertainment industry recognizing opportunities for people with disabilities and other real-life ailments. General Hospital was honored by the Ruderman Family Foundation for its accurate depiction of a character with a disability after the ABC soap opera cast Maysoon Zayid, who has cerebral palsy, in the role of Zahra Amir earlier this summer. Zayid said that landing her role on GH fulfilled a "lifelong dream," as she had found it difficult to land roles due to her disability.
A study by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that 95 percent of television characters with disabilities are played by able-bodied actors, and that is a number they hope to change.
"Given our belief that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing society, the Foundation's Seal of Authentic Representation is a simple, yet crucial and indispensable affirmation of those in the entertainment industry who put these values into action," says Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation. "By giving credit where credit is due in Hollywood, we hope to inspire a broader, longer-term, industry-wide sea change when it comes to authentically casting actors of all abilities."
Miner played the role of GL's Michelle Bauer from 1989 to 1995. After leaving Springfield, she went on to appear in TV shows like The X-Files, NY-LON, Californication, Sons of Anarchy, and Supernatural. Some of her film credits include Alice, In Their Skin, Life of Lemon, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations, and The Black Dahlia.
Since September 2017, Miner has been the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Random Acts, Inc, which has set out to conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time. The organization aims to inspire acts of kindness around the world, both big and small, and provides a vast network of caring people with the encouragement and support they need to change lives for the better.
What do you think about Rachel Miner's inspiring decision to continue auditioning for acting roles despite being in a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis? Would you like to see the actress return to soap operas? If so, which currently airing soap opera could you see her on? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.