By Danny Baggott @Dan_Baggie
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Videographer / Director: Adam Gray
Producer: Danny Baggott, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
Cynthia Murphy was born with the rare craniofacial disorder, Treacher Collins Syndrome - a genetic disorder characterised by the deformity of the eyes, ears, cheekbones and chin, affecting only one in 50,000 people.
With no cure for the condition, patients often undergo various surgeries to try and reduce the severity of their facial deformities.
The 32-year-old, from Green Valley Lake, California, experienced an onslaught of bullying throughout her childhood – getting beaten up after school and being labelled as ‘ugly', the abuse plagued her for years into her adult life.
But now, after more than 16 plastic surgeries and one major jaw reconstruction, Cynthia has found strength through advocating for her condition and helping others with craniofacial deformities in their quest to find happiness.
Cynthia told Barcroft TV: “It wasn’t until I started advocating for craniofacial deformities when I was 30, that I fully accepted myself.
“I had a very difficult childhood growing up. I was very judged and very mistreated by people who didn’t know me.
“It hurt. It hurt a lot to be labeled as someone who was ugly, deformed and stupid. I lived a very troubled life and I just felt helpless.
“I have now had 16 plus plastic surgeries on my face – it’s been a long process that started when I was 12 years old.
“I still don’t know how I got through it.”
Cynthia has established a strong online community where she regularly posts informative and inspirational videos, articles and blogs to her followers.
Her social media pages, such as Cynthia Murphy - Craniofacial Awareness Advocate, has aided Cynthia in her mission to spread positivity and allow people to receive the help and advice she never had when growing up.
Cynthia said: “I had to get through everything on my own. So social media is huge.
“It’s huge for helping the craniofacial community. It’s all about sharing the resources out there. That’s primarily what I’ve been doing for the last two years.
“I’m very proud of the community we’ve built on Facebook especially. We’ve built a secure environment for several groups – and I run a few of them myself.
“The reactions to my videos and to my blogs are always very positive. It’s important to be supportive of one and other.
“My husband is also a fantastic advocate and supports me from home.”
Cynthia met her husband of 11 years, Thane Murphy, when she was just 19 years old.
Thane helped to change the way Cynthia looked at herself as someone who could never find love.
And more recently, Thane and Cynthia have successfully set up their own lifestyle application, called Assuaged, to advise those who are struggling on how to treat their body.
Thane, 39, said: “What is Cynthia like as a person? It’s so hard to explain somebody so nice honestly.
“I didn’t know anything about Treacher Collins until I met Cynthia. I didn’t look at her as having any kind of disability.
“I just see the most beautiful woman in the world.
“And I hope that we change people’s lives. That would be wonderful. If you can change one person’s life – that’s all our goal is.”
Cynthia is now hoping for more members of the craniofacial community to speak out and embrace their differences – especially off the back of the success of ‘Wonder’, the brand new film about a little boy with Treacher Collins Syndrome who tries his best to fit in.
“I think many more are getting involved with media because of the movie ‘Wonder,’ Cynthia said.
“It’s beautiful to finally see many in our community surface from the shadows of silence.
“I hope my advocacy is helping people in the same way. I hope they get the resources they need and we can continue to work together.”