Rachel Alana Handler is an American actor, producer, singer, writer, motivational speaker, and advocate for actors with disabilities. She has acted in movies like The Upside, Committed, and Disability. The amputee actress is best known for playing Chunks in the 2016 horror movie Smothered. She has been a part of TV serials NCIS: New Orleans, New Amsterdam, Bull, Goliath, and Law & Order. She has also featured in Forbes for her mockumentary – So you wanna be an actor.
Born to Survive
Rachel was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Michelle and Alan Handler. She grew up in Linwood, New Jersey, and graduated with a Bachelors’s degree in Music from Westminster Choir College. Rachel began her early career in theatre. But long before she could establish herself as a leading actor, her life changed forever. On March 3, 2012, the 24-year-old Mainland Regional High School graduate, living in Queens who had just finished playing Snow White at Nicu’s Spoon Theater in midtown Manhattan, met with a car accident.
The Fateful Hour
Rachel was involved in a minor car accident in Elizabeth, Union County, when the unthinkable happened.
As she and the woman in the other car got out to exchange phone numbers and wait for the police to arrive, a third car sped around the curve, spun out of control, and flung them over the guardrail into some muddy grass.
Rachel, still conscious, remembered screaming – Help, Help, Help! She realized her iPhone was still in her hand but could not see her left boot. Both the shoe and her foot were missing! The pain was excruciating. A father and his 10-year-old daughter held her hand, called her parents, and waited with her till the paramedics arrived. A woman also pulled over and rushed to her side to pray with her. Rachel cried because of the raging pain and because she felt her dreams of singing and dancing on Broadway were about to end.
By the time she reached the hospital, Rachel was unconscious.
Hospitalization and Home After
Rachel Handler spent a month at Newark Hospital. She underwent multiple blood transfusions, surgeries, pain, and anxiety. Though bedridden and heavily medicated, with the love and support of her parents, Rachel never gave up. Luckily, the doctors managed to save her knee, and she became a below-knee amputee.
After release, she went to live with her parents at her childhood home.
Rachel grieved her loss during hospitalization, but according to her, “By the time I got home, I had accepted it. It could have been a lot worse.”
For the next few months, she waited for the wounds to heal before getting a prosthetic leg.
Breaking Down Before Standing Up
One night in June, Rachel broke down at a wedding as the couple began their first dance. As the song unfolded, memories of the accident flooded back, and tears rolled down Rachel’s eyes. She remembered dancing to that song in her favorite contemporary dance class, only two nights before the accident. It was the last time Rachel had danced as a non-disabled person.
A close friend held Rachel’s hand till the tears of grief subsided, and a smile crept across her face. At that moment, Rachel Handler knew she had to go after her dream. She was ready to embrace life, stand up, and become an actress.
LimBitless to Limitless
Racheal Handler soon began to act in theatre, on TV, and in the movies. In 2015, Rachel was honored as part of Atlantic City Weekly’s “Top 40 Under 40“. Today Rachel Alana Handler is an actor and filmmaker based in NYC. She has won,
- Sundance Co//ab June 2019 Monthly Challenge,
- Best Awareness Easterseals Disability Film Challenge 2019,
- AT&T Underrepresented Filmmaker Award 2018, and
- Best Comedian Hollywood Hills Awards 2017.
When asked – who is your inspiration? Rachel Handler immediately talks about Aviva Drescher of the TV show The Real Housewives of New York City. “She has the same amputation as me. It’s cool to watch her on TV, wearing high, high heels and running around the city,” says Rachel Handler, who has proved she is an Actor more than an Amputee.