This Sunday, Daenerys Targaryen lands in Westeros to begin her attempt to reclaim the Iron Throne. She’s strong, she has a ginormous army, and she has three dragons. She’s basically a platinum-haired badass.
It’s no surprise that women look up to her, but powerlifter Amber Abweh, also known as “Swoleesi” on YouTube and Instagram, isn’t interested in sitting on iron. She wants to lift it, bend it, and make it her bitch.
Not only does the cosplay fan look like Dany, she kicks an equal amount of butt. At just 123 pounds, Amber squats more than double her body weight, benches nearly 1.5 times her weight, and deadlifts nearly four times her body weight. With this kind of power, she’s clearly the Mother of DraGAINS.
She told us more about how she found powerlifting, set her course, and gathered a legion of fans and admirers.
What inspired you to take on the role of Swoleesi, Mother of DraGAINS?
I’ve always loved dressing up. Halloween is my favorite holiday because you can be whoever you want to be. I just combined my nerdy love for costumes and cosplay with my other passion: lifting.
A lot of my followers suggested I take the role. Jokingly, I made a post calling myself “Swoleesi” because I dyed my hair blonder and had the darker brow. Everyone loved it, and they suggested that I should just be the buff/”swole” version of her, and I thought, why not? I never expected to get this big! It’s exciting. People seem to like it as much as I do. That’s so dope.
Why do you identify so strongly with Khaleesi?
Daenerys Targaryen is a badass. She started out so innocent and passive, but she slowly transformed into a strong, powerful leader. She shows how women can be independent, which I think is a great message to young people everywhere. Plus, she has dragons—no one can beat that.
I feel like everyone can relate to her character. For me, when I was back in high school, I was focused on being small and tiny. I would constantly tear myself down, and I felt like I wasn’t worth much. When I stared lifting, I felt powerful. I started to know my own self-worth, which is like Daenerys’ progression from season 1 to season 7.
What got you into powerlifting?
I have been powerlifting for three years now. Before I started powerlifting, I tried to do bodybuilding. I was so fascinated by the idea of having abs that I would practically starve myself and do hours of cardio to have them. However, I saw how my actions affected my youngest sister, who was hospitalized for anorexia at the age of 14. I felt like I was to blame.
I wanted to change because I didn’t want to set the wrong example for young people. I wanted to show her that having abs was overrated, and being strong was a healthier and happier route.
We have to ask: How much ya bench?
When I first started powerlifting, I competed in a higher weight class (148 pounds), and I hit decent numbers: 291 squat, 170 bench, and 380 deadlift. I decided to cut weight because I wanted to be more competitive and didn’t like the extra weight I gained after high school. I lost 20 pounds to join the 123-pound weight class.
The best number I hit at that weight was 265 squat, 176 bench, and 407 deadlift. So even if there wasn’t much improvement in the numbers, pound for pound, I became much stronger.
What’s the most challenging part of your training?
My biggest challenge is myself. I constantly overthink everything and get into my own head. I used to get so frustrated with myself that I would break down crying during training sessions because I felt I wasn’t performing as well as I should. I found myself constantly comparing my progress to that of another lifter and wondering why I wasn’t improving like them.
Within the past few months, I decided to take a step back and fall in love with the sport again. I don’t compare myself—as much—and I just lift because I love it!
Do you have advice for anyone who wants to begin powerlifting?
Don’t compare your progress to other people. You’ll never be satisfied. Don’t start in the hopes of chasing records. There will always be someone who is better or stronger, and there will always be someone breaking records. Just go in and have fun.
When you do it long enough, motivation will fade, but that’s when discipline takes over. Just keep trying until you make it. Those who succeed are the ones who never took “no” as an answer.
What do you think the future holds for Khaleesi in the final two seasons?
Well, it may come as a surprise to everyone, but I hope she dies; I feel like her winning the Iron Throne is too obvious. George R. R. Martin never goes with the obvious choice, which is how the show became so exciting—there are plot twists every episode.
I hope Tyrion somehow wins; I think he might be part Targaryen, too. Don’t believe me? Look up the Tyrion “Three Heads of the Dragon” Theory! [Editor’s note: Spoiler alert.]