Episode 18 – Lights, Camera, Action – and Accessibility: Part 1
Born with a rare form of neuromuscular disease, Leah Zelaya faced a host of challenges including medical claims that she would possibly never walk. In spite of these obstacles, Leah learned to believe in her abilities. Through strenuous physical therapy and determination, she is now able to ambulate with forearm crutches. Leah has taken that determination and applied it to sports and the arts. Leah is a dancer, cyclist, actor, model, and advocate for the community of individuals with disabilities. You may have seen her at New York Fashion Week, sharing her story on the MDA Telethon hosted by Kevin Hart, or in Universal Pictures’ movie production called “Marry Me”, starring Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson.
Leah Zelaya was born with a rare form of neuromuscular disease and has faced a host of challenges, including medical claims that she would possibly never walk. In spite of these obstacles, Leah learned to believe in her abilities. In 2008 through strenuous physical therapy, she began to walk with bilateral leg bracing and a walker. Later, in that year she traded her walker for a pair of forearm crutches that improved her independent ambulation. She has applied that same determination to a myriad of interests and talents. She is a dance, athlete, advocate, model, and actress. She has performed in nine public recitals, competed and won first place in the adaptive skiing “Hartman Race”, joined a hand-cycling team, and serves as an ambassador for the MDA. As an ambassador, she has gone to our nation’s capital to speak to both senators and congress representatives of New York State. Leah walked in New York Fashion Week for Lulu Et Gigi and walked for the ROD Fashion Virtual Show for Runway of Dreams. In the summer of 2020 Leah was enrolled in Open Style Lab summer program where she collaborated with Open Style Fellows and MDA members to create the “Easy Zip,” a functional hand tool that assists people with their zippers. Recently, Leah has made her debut as an actress in Universal Pictures’ movie production called “Marry Me”, starring Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, and MALUMA. Leah has created a total of three short films entitled, QuaranTime for Gold Productions. Tenacious Jaci and A Hero’s Grace for the Easter Seals Disability Film Challenge. She has also been an extra on the TV Program Sesame Street (Episode 5120 “Family Day”.) Through all these accomplishments, she continues to discover her unique talents and aptitudes while believing that she can overcome the impossible.
Connect with Leah:
Mindy Henderson is the Editor-in-Chief of MDA’s Quest family of content and the host of this podcast. She was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, type 2 when she was 15 months old and has been a life-long partner to MDA. Mindy is also a motivational speaker and a writer, with her first book set to hit book stores in Summer of 2022.
Connect with Mindy:
Disclaimer: No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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