Amanda Lynn Swafford was born on October 30, 1978, in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and is an American fashion model and television personality. She came in third place on Cycle 3 of the reality television show America's Next Top Model. Swafford is legally blind; she is afflicted with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition. She is now 40 and fully blind. In the episode of America's Next Top Model where Swafford revealed her condition to the other contestants, she stated that the condition would leave her completely blind by age 30. She has modeled in Moscow and Prague after the show.
Swafford's family relocated to Plano, Texas during her childhood years. She was a track and field athlete at Plano East Senior High School in 1997. In 2000, she graduated from Austin Community College, Rio Grande.
Before appearing on America's Next Top Model, Swafford modeled under the name "Amanda Mellard" in Austin, Texas, where she was a somewhat established figure in Austin's fashion community. After appearing on America's Next Top Model, Swafford modeled for Levi's in an ad campaign with other visually impaired models. In 2005, Swafford announced plans to write a multi-sensory book for children.
America's Next Top ModelEdit
When Swafford entered a casting call for Cycle 3 of the then-UPN hit reality TV series America's Next Top Model in late 2003, she was advanced to the next round of judging in Los Angeles. Evaluating Swafford in this part of the selection process were show creator Tyra Banks, ANTM photo shoot coordinator Mr. Jay Manuel, and ANTM runway coach Miss J. Alexander. The judges all noted that her most stunning feature was her ice-blue eyes. However, their stunning icy color was also a clue as to a potential career-crippling liability: Swafford was legally blind, a result of the eye disease retinitis pigmentosa. The condition causes the pigmentation in the rods—the structure of the eye that controls the amount of light available for use by the eye, thus affecting the perception of light and dark—to fade and eventually to deteriorate completely, leaving the rods unable to process any visual light at all. Swafford's legal blindness could potentially present serious hazards to both herself and her fellow models were she to find herself walking a runway under low-light conditions, for example. However, Swafford's desire to participate as a cast member turned any of the judges' doubts around, and she was called 10th during casting.
The judges were amazed by her photos, especially the un-retouched beauty shot that she took during the third week of the competition. Even when participating in a fashion show under low-light conditions, she was able to successfully navigate the runway without a misstep due to the glitter and glowing paint scheme allowing her to be able to see the runway's path and edges. She was never once criticized by the judges for being too old for the competition despite her being 25 years old at the time. When she went on her go sees in Japan, however, she was told that she was too old by one of the designers.
She participated in the finale along with winner Eva Pigford and Yaya DaCosta, but Swafford was eliminated when she and Pigford were in the bottom 2. The judges had a difficult time deciding whom to send home, as all three contestants had strong CoverGirl photos, and all three were considered strong contenders, but in the end, it was Swafford. One of the judges, Janice Dickinson was a dissenting voice on the judging panel, saying, "I love you!" to Swafford when she was eliminated.
In 2008, she was voted one of the most memorable contestants by AOL entertainment.
Swafford has appeared on the covers of Bliss for Bride Magazine and Access Magazine, and has modelled for Levi's Jeans, Felt It! Stitch It! Fabulous! and WEBS. She is now a renowned stylist in North Carolina. She will be hosting the first fashion show with visually impaired models during NYFW of 2014.
Swafford is married to Tobias O'Connell. The couple has a son, Elijah Wolf, born in 2002.