My Disability Doesn’t Define Me: Issa Rae’s Executive Assistant Candis Welch On Thriving In The Workplace
For 32-year-old Candis Welch – excuses are not an option.
At just 18 months' old, Candis was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy – a rare neuromuscular disease that deteriorates muscular strength over time. The condition eventually left her permanently wheelchair bound by the age of 11.
Despite the early predictions on her life, Candis became a first generation college graduate with a Master's Degree in Public Administration, founded the blog Can Can on Wheelz where she chronicles daily life from her perspective, works full-time for the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, and has been Issa Rae's executive assistant for five years – all from her wheelchair.
How does she do it all?
I recently chatted with Candis about her career journey and how she's been able to persevere and prove people's stereotypes about differently-abled persons wrong. "For a long time I had a fear of not seeing myself go past the age of 25. A lot of my friends I met who had a similar disability had already passed away. I feared I wouldn't be able to see a certain part of my life or do certain things. I didn't see them happening for other people that looked like me. My big fear was 'Am I going to experience life?'"
De Dee Verdin
Navigating the workforce was also a challenge for Candis. "I had to work hard to prove myself. In general, as a Black woman… as a Black disabled woman... as a Black disabled woman who is not a size two, I had a lot of proving to do especially in the entertainment industry. I didn't look the part. I had to let my work ethic and hustle speak for itself. Anyone who I've ever worked for, they all had a general consensus, I work my butt off. I stay late just like anyone else. I get to the job by any means necessary. I am going to be one of your most valued employees. I want to show you that I am capable."
One of the major milestones along this path has been her work with the Hollywood creative Issa Rae – a position she received after a friend who knew she was unemployed at the time recommended that she interview for the open assistant job. Candis credits Issa Rae as being the first person in the entertainment industry who did not judge her or deem her incapable of doing the job. Instead, Issa valued her education, ability to articulate her thoughts, and ability to perform well on the job.
Though she had a lot of learning to do in the beginning and "made mistakes" along the way, Candis shared three of the biggest lessons she's learned over the past few years being a pivotal member of her operations team. These lessons transcend beyond the workplace and have been key pillars in Candis' approach to life and success.
1. Always be nice.
"A lot of people in the industry get a high horse, thinking you have to be rude to people and demanding. You don't have to do none of that." Candis credits Issa's camp as always remaining nice and professional, "You get more with honey than with oil or vinegar."
When working in the industry and building your dreams, you'll meet all sorts of personalities, but remaining nice will go a long way.
2. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, create it.
Issa Rae is known for her original projects, such as Awkward Black Girl, that stemmed from a lack of storytelling that represented her truth.
Likewise, Candis started her blog to tell her story and help others in her position "see the light." There was no representation when she was growing up, so she wanted to be that representation. Her blog chronicles her day-to-day life experiences, sheds light on other disabled persons thriving, details her self-care routines, and more.
The very act of creating will also bring you closer to your purpose, strengthen you, and inspire your community along the way. "Finding my purpose and my calling to tell my story has calmed my soul. I was so frantic [questioning] what am I on this earth for. When I found my purpose, I said, 'I get it God...this is why you had me go through all those crazy times because [I] had to help someone else live through it.'"
De Dee Verdin
3. If you want to see your work flourish, you have to put in the work.
"You can't try to be at all the parties, it's not going to happen. I saw [Issa passing on social events] for years, but that's how you get Insecure and all these other projects. She's locked in. Nothing else happens unless you're dedicated. She taught me a tremendous work ethic."
As you're building your dream, it will be necessary to ask yourself: Am I making excuses or am I making it happen?
Candis' dedication to her goals are in full throttle. Candis is currently focusing on building the CanCanonWheelz platform and growing it to encompass speaking, panel discussions, brand partnerships, and advocacy opportunities for people with disabilities across all platforms, such as employment and travel. She also wants to create a social network for the disabled and address issues such as dating and living independently. Ultimately, Candis' end goal is to start a nonprofit that caters to disabled adults.
"You are going to fall. You are going to break. This process as living and thriving as a disabled person is difficult."
However, according to Candis – when you're a "hustler by default", there's no way to go but up.
To learn more about Candis' journey, listen to her story on episode 179 of the Dreams In Drive podcast.
Featured Image via De Dee Verdin.
Rana Campbell is a Princeton University graduate, storyteller, content marketing strategist, and the founder and host of Dreams In Drive - a weekly podcast that teaches you how to take your dreams from PARK to DRIVE. She loves teaching others how to use their life stories to inspire action within oneself and others. Connect with her on Instagram @rainshineluv or @dreamsindrive.
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From Monogamy To Polyamory: 'I'm In An Asexual Poly Marriage With My Husband Of 7 Years'
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be asexual and in an open marriage? Relationship Coach Mikki Bey shared her first-hand experience with us as well as answered some of our burning questions.
Like a lot of people, Mikki met her now husband, Raheem Ali, online. As soon as they met, they instantly fell in love and got engaged on their first date. Just 90 days after they met, the couple tied the knot and have now been married for seven years. Raheem and Mikki aren’t your typical married couple, and despite being married for almost a decade, their marriage is anything but traditional. Mikki and Raheem have what she calls an "asexual polyamorous marriage."
Defining Her Sexuality
It wasn't until last summer that Mikki found the language to define her sexuality. "I didn't have the language for it until last summer," she explained to xoNecole. "Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing.”
Mikki always thought she was broken because she had no interest in sex. Mikki noticed after her friends came to visit and started discussing their sexual fantasies that she realized something was different about her. “At that point, I knew something was definitely different about me since I do not have sexual fantasies at all. It was truly news to me that people are at work thinking about sex! That was not my experience.” This led to Mikki researching asexuality, which she soon realized fit her to a T. “It felt like breathing new air when I was able to call it by name," said Mikki.
"Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing it."
Asexuality refers to people who experience little or no sexual attraction, experience attraction without acting on it sexually, or experience sexual attraction differently based on other factors. Like most things, asexuality falls on a spectrum and encompasses many other identities. It's important to remember, however, that attraction and action are not always synonymous: some asexuals may reject the idea of sexual contact, but others may be sex-neutral and engage in sexual activity.
It's possible that some asexuals will have sex with someone else despite not having a libido or masturbating, but others will have sex with a partner because it brings a sense of connection.
From a Traditional Marriage to Kitchen Table Polyamory
Although Mikki never really had a high sex drive, it wasn’t until after the birth of her son, that she noticed her sex drive took a real nosedive. “I never had a high sex drive, but about a year after my son was born, I realized I had zero desire. My husband has a high sex drive, and I knew that it would not be sustainable to not have sex in our marriage at that time.”
She was determined to find an alternative to divorce and stumbled upon a polyamory conversation on Clubhouse. Upon doing her own research, she brought up the idea to their husband, who was receptive. “It’s so interesting to me that people weigh sex so heavily in relationships when even if you are having a ton of sex, it’s still a very small percentage of the relationship activity," Mikki shared.
They chose polyamory because Mikki still wanted to be married, but she also wanted to make sure that Raheem was getting his individual needs and desires met, even if that meant meeting them with someone else. “I think that we have been programmed to think that our spouses need to be our 'everything.' We do not operate like that. There is no one way that fits all when it comes to relationships, despite what society may try to tell you. Their path to doing this thing called life together may be different from yours, but they found what works for them. We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us,” Mikki explained.
"We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us. We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sex partners to lifetime partners if it should go there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it."
She continued, “We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sexual partners to lifetime partners if it should get there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it. Our dynamic is parallel with kitchen table poly aspirations.”
Kitchen table polyamory (KTP) is a polyamorous relationship in which all participants are on friendly terms enough to share a meal at the kitchen table. Basically, it means you have some form of relationship with your partner’s other partner, whether as a group or individually. A lot of times, KTP relationships are highly personal and rooted in mutual respect, communication, and friendship.
Intimacy in an Asexual Polyamorous Marriage
Mikki says she and her husband, Raheem, still share intimate moments despite being in a polyamorous marriage. “Our intimacy is emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical, although non-sexual. We are intentional about date nights weekly, surprising and delighting each other daily, and most of all, we communicate our needs regularly. In my opinion, our intimacy is top-tier! I give my husband full-body massages, mani-pedis and make sure I am giving him small physical touches/kisses throughout the day. He is also very intentional about showing me his love and affection.”
Raheem and Mikki now use their lives as examples for others. On their website, thepolycouplenextdoor.com, they coach people interested in learning how to be consensually non-monogamous. “We are both relationship coaches. I specialized in emotional regulation, and Raheem specializes in communication and conflict resolution. The same tools we use in our marriage help our clients succeed in polyamory."
Mikki advises people who may be asexual or seeking non-monogamy to communicate their needs openly and to consider seeking sex therapy or intimacy coaching. Building a strong relationship with a non-sexual partner requires both empathy and compassion.
For more of Mikki, follow her on Instagram @getmikkibey. Follow the couple's platform on Instagram @thepolycouplenextdoor.
Featured image by skynesher/Getty Images