By Gareth Shoulder @garethshoulder
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Videographer / director: Colin Weatherby
Producer: Gareth Shoulder, Ruby Coote
Editor: Alex Lubetkin
Amber Guzman, 32, has muscular dystrophy, a disease which causes muscles to deteriorate over time.
She identifies as a ‘living doll’ because her condition has left her so weak, she cannot walk long distances and often needs to be carried around.
The cosplayer has attracted thousands of followers on social media with her outlandish costume designs which incorporate her wheelchair.
Amber told Barcroft TV: “After I hit puberty, my muscles were just depleting and going down.
“It’s an illness that kills off your muscles and makes it hard for you to rebuild your muscles.
“I was diagnosed in 2012, but I started noticing I was having more problems walking after the age of 15.”
Amber admits after her diagnosis the condition barely inhibited her.
After the muscular dystrophy developed, she suddenly found daily activities were becoming more difficult.
“When I was first diagnosed, I was barely struggling.
“I was still walking but I was struggling to get upstairs on my own.
“I struggled to pick up my tools for cosplay or even just doing my makeup.
“I had to keep my hands up for so long that became tiring.”
Amber took solace in her cosplay, using it to distract herself from her rapidly developing condition.
She says it quickly became a creative outlet that she says saved her life.
“Year after year I would lose like another ability and slowly lose something else.
“I needed help to get off of the toilet, into the shower, into the bed.
“That’s why cosplay means so much to me because it saved me from having to think about that a lot.
“That’s why I appreciate cosplay because it occupies my mind from thinking about the negative.”
Now, the gregarious model is championing cosplay for the disabled community.
When the cosplayer attends conventions she says she’s inundated with requests for pictures by fans of her work.
“People always come up to me at conventions and say I can’t believe you did this huge costume with your wheelchair.
“I love incorporating my wheelchair into my cosplay.
“You just don’t see it so it’s rare. It’s rare to see a well-known cosplayer with disabilities.
“You tend not to think of yourself as being that special.
“I never thought I would have that effect on anybody to be called inspiring.”
Amber lives with her teenage sweetheart and husband Martin.
They met when Amber was 17 and had just moved to Long Beach, California.
Martin has been there before Amber’s diagnosis and has been her rock as the conditioned worsened.
Martin told Barcroft TV: “I use her as motivation.
“I’m so grateful to have her and both of us learned so much from this illness.
“We’re very thankful for just being where we are, we could be in a way worse situation.”
Amber hopes to inspire other people with disabilities through her cosplay.
Changing people’s perceptions about what someone in a wheelchair can achieve.
Amber said: “Having a disability doesn’t mean your life is over.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s the end or you have to stop your dreams if your disabled or in a wheelchair.
“You could always still get to the end goal no matter what you’re doing.
“Never give up on your dreams while being disabled.”