By Joe Roberts @jrobertsjourno
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Gerrit Messersmith
Producer: Joe Roberts
Editor: Beth Angus
Amanda Lopez lost her foot and many of her fingers to Amniotic Band Syndrome – a condition where a fetus gets entangled in strands of the Amniotic sac prior to birth.
But the 29-year-old hasn’t let her disability hold her back from inspiring others, and recently appeared in her first fashion show.
Amanda, of Orlando, Florida, told Barcroft Studios: “I used to be very self-conscious and not wear shorts, skirts, or dresses because I didn't want people to stare at me.
“But now I've noticed that when I actually show who I am, people are more inclined to want to know my story. So it feels really good now that I have that confidence.”
It’s been a long struggle for Amanda, who has been through her share of hardship to become the confident woman she is now.
From day one, the Floridian has faced obstacles, having been born by c-section and immediately being taken away by doctors to deal with her condition.
Dad, Manuel, recalled his daughter’s birth: “I knew something was up because they called the doctor right away. The doctor came up to me and told me we had hand and feet problems.”
Mum, Maria Rendon, added: “They had done some research and the condition is known as Amniotic Band Syndrome, where, in some women's uterus, strands form.
“If those strands get close to the baby they're like rubber bands or glue. So they’ll amputate whatever they get a hold of.
“So in Amanda's case, she somehow got close to them and instead of puncturing the sack, she got close to those bands and it fused off her fingers and foot.
“They did tell me that she would never walk. They told me that she would be possibly mentally challenged, and possibly that her insides would not be developed correctly.”
Since birth, Amanda has proven the doctors wrong on all those counts but it hasn’t been an easy road.
She has undergone nine different procedures in her lifetime, including a surgery at age six which took skin from her thigh and grafted it to her hand.
“I don't know how they put it on,” she recalled. “I just remember they put some lotion on and took my skin off. I was screaming, that's the only part I remember.”
Despite the hardships she’s endured, Amanda has grown into a relentlessly positive young woman, even though she still faces judgement for her prosthetic leg.
“I’ve have had some times where I've been in downtown and somebody screamed across the street: ‘you're wearing a prosthetic’.
“I’ll go out somewhere and somebody will look at my hand not want to touch my hand as I'm paying for something.
“It makes me really mad. Sometimes I try to be nice, but you have to stick up for yourself. So sometimes I do have an attitude back and I'll say, ‘do you have a question? Are you curious? Do you know somebody that looks like me because I would love to tell you since you're staring’.”
Manuel recalls the judgement going back to Amanda’s school years: “She would come home from school, and she would talk about the way kids were and that they were looking at her weird.
“It wasn't easy for her through elementary, middle, and high school. But she held her head up high, and she never let nothing stop her.”
Now, that resilient spirit has transferred to Amanda’s adulthood, which has been a big inspiration to others, including her family.
Maria said: “The brightness, the soul of Amanda makes my heart so full. The impact in my life, and I know the impact on others’ lives that she's touched is amazing.
“She's an original. And she's a gift to me, to her family, and to the world.”
Brother, Isaac, said: “Amanda is just a wonderful person. Growing up as a kid I knew I could always turn to my sister for help.”
And it’s not just family that Amanda has touched with her positive spirit. She is active on social media, sharing her journey on YouTube as ‘Amanda Lopez’ and racking up almost 4,000 followers on Instagram as ‘@therealamandalopez_’.
Amanda uses her platform to show off her various outfits and shares her passion for fashion, all the while demonstrating that a disability doesn’t have to hold you back.
“I'm very, very, very passionate about fashion,” she said. “It's something I've loved for such a long time, the whole concept of just getting ready, always looking your best, it’s something I really enjoy.
“So my focus with my social media is my fashion – trying to put outfits together because I really want to be that celebrity stylist.
“I take my own pictures, and I do get self conscious even with trying to be as fashionable as I can with those pictures because people are watching me everywhere.
“But I want to show, no matter what disability you have anything is possible – absolutely anything. Never let your disability stop you.”
That same determination is what propelled Amanda to take part in her first fashion show in late-2019 for ‘Snatchem’ Tribe’ – an Orlando-based organisation dedicated to empowering women.
Amanda took to the runway as the first model at one of the company’s shows to have a prosthetic, modelling for the crowds and setting a confident example.
Immediately after the show, she said: “Now I have more confidence knowing that if there is another show I can just do it.
“I really was able to walk with confidence even though it was difficult with my prosthetic because I was tripping over it, but I didn’t want anybody to see that and I just kept it going.
“I just want this to open doors for other people like me, because it's hard sometimes to relate to someone like me. So I want to be that inspiration to everyone across the world.”
Jemmiah Edwards, Chief Project Manager for Snatchem’ Tribe, said: “Amanda did stellar. I couldn’t be prouder. When she came backstage, we said ‘how do you feel?’ and she said ‘confident’. She looked confident. I’m so proud of Amanda.”
With the fashion show out of the way, Amanda has her sights set on establishing herself further in the industry.
Her dream is to become a celebrity stylist, and with all she’s accomplished so far, that dream doesn’t seem too far from becoming a reality.
She said: “I don't really see anybody that has a prosthetic leg or has what I have when it comes to the runway, whether it's stylists sewing, I don't see that very often.
“So that's the reason why I just want to show everyone that it's possible. Fashion is very, very competitive. But I feel like when you have something different, it's even more rewarding of an accomplishment.
“Any disability that you may have, you should just not let it hurt you. You should let it make you even stronger.”