Not all disabilities are visible, as a Huntington clothing-store owner illustrates in the new documentary series "Born for Business," focusing on four entrepreneurs forging ahead despite debilitating maladies, and premiering Monday on the streaming service Peacock.
East Islip's Lexi Zanghi, 23, who last year expanded her fashion business, Always Reason, from online to brick-and-mortar, suffers from anxiety so severe she requires anti-nausea medication in addition to others that counter panic attacks. Her co-stars are lupus sufferer Qiana Allen, of the plus-sized boutique Culture's Closet; Collette Divitto, a baker with Down syndrome, who owns Collettey's Cookies; and concert producer Chris Triebes of The Congregation Presents, who is a single father with spinal muscular atrophy (type 3).
"I'm excited, but I'm also really nervous about it," Zanghi, who was born in Bethpage and raised in Holbrook, says by phone, "because I was super vulnerable in the show, talking about anxiety. And for viewers to understand, you have to really dive into your past traumas … So it was a fine line of showing anxiety and trauma without also giving away some of the worst parts of my life."
Zanghi, the daughter of Charlie and Michele Zanghi, founders and owners of Cheap Charlie's Tree Service, says her anxiety first manifested around age 13. "I've been in and out of therapy," she says. "As far as medication goes, I kind of refused to take it for a while — a lot of them didn't go well with me. So I would be on and off it during high school. But then I hit a point, probably two, two-and-a-half years ago, where my anxiety got really bad. Like, I was just throwing up every day, which I didn't even know anxiety could do to you. So at that point I was like, 'All right, I'm taking medication.' "
The Sachem East High School alumna fought her anxiety well enough to make Newsday's All-Long Island cheerleading team as a senior in 2016, lauded by the newspaper for "her elite talent, fantastic crowd-leading ability and infectious work ethic … . She was a strong main base with impeccable tumbling skills." Zanghi has also successfully maintained a relationship with her high-school sweetheart, now fiance, 24-year-old Timothy Quinn, who owns the lawn-care company Next Level Landscaping.
Zanghi says she came to the attention of the show's producers, reality-TV powerhouse Bunim Murray, after having applied to be on the company's MTV reality show "Lindsay Lohan's Beach Club," starring the titular actor-entrepreneur raised in Cold Spring Harbor and Merrick.
"I guess they hold your information," Zanghi says, "and they saw 'anxiety' and 'business owner,' and they just reached out to me one day. They had a whole interview process that was pretty long, and probably halfway through casting I was, like, 'Oh my God, do I want to be on a show with my anxiety? Can I do that? Can I be that vulnerable?' And it was hard," she says. "I got the show, and literally two days later they're, like, 'We're going to fly you to Chicago this day, we're going to fly you to Vegas that day. We're going to film this and that.' "
Zanghi, whose brother Gage works in film and TV production, and whose brother Kyle owns Liink Printing, hopes her being in "Born for Business" helps people with undiagnosed anxiety identify it in order to seek treatment — and that others better understand that disabilities can affect anyone, even those with seemingly enviable lives.
"I look like someone who has everything put together ... I have a fiance who's amazing, all of it," she acknowledges. "And the truth is, I just don't." The first episode, for instance, shows "my panic attack in Chicago right before I met everyone."
On the eve of broadcast, "I'm a little scared about the show airing," she says. "But I know what I'm getting into, and I'm really hopeful it will help somebody. I really think it will."