Amanda, currently based in New York City, studied archaeology at Boston University and University of Madrid, was a rescue swimmer in the U.S. Navy, obtained her culinary degree at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu and received her master’s degree at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. In Paris, she studied wine, fortified wine and spirits. She’s a lifelong athlete, expert marksman, evasive driver, cartography enthusiast and treasure hunter with a sense of humor that has no quit.
As a speaker and on-screen, Amanda is known for her humor, expressive nature and unrelenting curiosity and enthusiasm about culture, travel, cuisine, and body hacks. She’s motivated thousands by being repeatedly knocked down only to rise stronger. And smiling. After fifteen surgeries, and with an array of artificial body parts – plates, screws, discs, anchors and reconstructions – she’s bionic.
Amanda loves being outside and physical exertion. Her athletic focus has shifted after the procedures on her left foot and right hip; a little more climbing and a little less running. She learned technical skills at Alaska Mountaineering School and recently summited Kilimanjaro and Elbrus. In late fall she’ll begin prepping for more technical climbs and anticipates long trail hikes to raise awareness for several issues she holds dear.
Other interests include cooking and wine pairing, dogs, and testing gear and wines. Licenses and certifications include skydiving, SCUBA, motorcycle, WSET and ServSafe. She’s of Vietnamese-American descent and grew up covered in dirt in the woods of Maine, navigating the forest, playing “G.I Joe,” collecting rocks and animal bones and defacing her dolls.
Things took a turn when, for a reason unknown to her at the time, an array of strange symptoms invaded her life. Though deployed invincible, she returned disjointed. She couldn’t read without a splitting headache, much less comprehend the words. Catching a frisbee or kicking a soccer ball became elusive tasks. A general feeling of nausea stayed with her for years. No orthopedist could identify the origins of her hand and grip problems. Being cold, at all times, was the new normal. It was brain injury but the seemingly unrelated puzzle pieces eluded her providers. She had to adapt; work with what she had left.
Many of her notable achievements – Ironman and half Ironman triathlons, 18 marathons, magazine covers, athletic sponsorship, hosting several seasons of a series, two national lifestyle columns, Ivy League master’s degree – came after her first and/or second brain injuries but before she had a proper diagnosis, much less treatment. Now, the team of doctors and therapists is 20 strong and it’s estimated she operated at 40-60% for almost fourteen years.
She is currently undergoing treatment for post-concussion syndrome related to two moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries and at least five concussions. Physical damage to her cervical spine greatly reduced range of motion, drastically altering her swim and bike form. Her vision was greatly reduced, resulting in the worst case of convergence insufficiency some of her providers had ever seen, vestibular function rocked, spine compressed, dexterity limited and the right side of her body, as a whole, weakened. Damage to her left temporal lobe led to word loss, aphasia and trouble communicating on several levels. When listening, the inability to find spaces between words left her reading people’s’ body language, expression and intent to figure out situations; what she refers to as her “superpowers.” Another happy byproduct of all these injuries is an elevated sense of taste and smell, which led to the pursuit of food and wine credentials.
Given the circumstances of her own brain, she’s taken great interest in human performance and neuroscience. If there are some parts she can’t rewire or get back, breakthroughs in the neuroplasticity field can help.
Amanda unknowingly defied the odds by virtue of her unmatched resilience and motivating grit. Aware that she is in a rare position – as someone who rebuilt many of her own neural connections well enough that she eluded proper diagnosis for well over a decade – she’s decided to speak about it and its psychological effects in an unprecedented and honest way, even before she completes treatment. “Looking so normal” led to a long road of struggle and so advocating for unseen, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed issues like brain injury, post traumatic stress, depression and anxiety is a priority in her life.
Amanda has a story of resilience and self-reliance; proof that no diagnosis can stop the show.