Leah j. Zelaya
Actress, dancer, model, and advocate
Born with a rare form of neuromuscular disease, I faced a host of challenges including a medical diagnosis that claimed I would never be able to walk. In spite of these obstacles, I learned to believe in my abilities. Around 2008 through strenuous physical therapy, I began to walk with bilateral leg bracing & a walker. Later, that year I traded my walker for a pair of forearm crutches. In 2013, I enrolled in Dancing Dreams which provides dance classes and performance opportunities for children with medical or physical challenges. Dancing Dreams has empowered me to express myself through dance & confidently building my self-esteem. By spring of 2014 , I was able to meet my goal which was the ability to perform on stage without my crutches. So far, I have performed in the Meredith Vieira Show, Lincoln Center, seven public recitals and represent Dancing Dreams at the 39th Annual Salute to Women in Sports Event. In this event, I walked the Red Carpet with Oksana Masters, connected with Billie Jean King. In winter of 2018, I entered an adaptable skiing competition through the Adaptive Sport Foundation, called “The Hartman Race” in which I won first place Bi-ski girls’ division. In 2016 & 2019, the Muscular Dystrophy Association invited me to Washington DC to speak and advocate for people with Muscular Dystrophy to senators and congress representatives of New York State about accessible air travel, newborn screening, healthcare reform and the orphan drug act. Most recently, I walked in New York Fashion Week for Lulu Et Gigi. I dedicated my walk to raise disability awareness and to encourage those who have a disability. I also will be doing my debut as an actress in Universal Pictures’ upcoming movie production “Marry Me”, starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson. Through all these accomplishments, I continue to discover my unique talents and aptitudes while believing that I can overcome the impossible.