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Model Clara Holmes Talks Being Wheelchair-Bound While Slaying The Fashion Game

The influencer and travel-lover takes confidence and self-care to the next level.

BOSS UP

There's a certain power in confidence that can change your whole outlook on life and what it throws at you. We all have challenges to face, and one woman is not letting hers steal her joy or her love of living out loud.

Clara Holmes, a UK-native with Jamaican roots, was born with a condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) which weakens blood vessels, organs, and connective tissues in the body. "Basically, my hips can no longer hold me up. I can't stand, walk, or put any weight on them," she explained. "It's a very painful condition, and the more I do, the more I'm in pain. At the same time, if I don't do anything, I get stiff, and I'm in more pain."

Image by Michaela Efford

She has managed chronic pain and other ailments associated with the condition for most of her life. Fifteen years ago, she had to go from crutches to being wheelchair-bound.

"It's a catch-22. I said to myself, 'I'm damned if I do, and I'm damned if I don't, so I should try to live the best life possible and just go with it.' And that's what I did."

Today, the founder of Rolling Funky, a fashion and lifestyle blog, models for a living and has an IG following of more than 15,000, a loving bae, and an active, full lifestyle that includes weekly trips to the gym. Holmes is a prime example of the fullness of black girl magic, and we caught up with her, in this xoNecole interview, to talk about how she balances it all and continues to slay even with the current state of the world.

Read more about her below!

Image by Mark Brown

What led you to get into fashion and start your blog?

People would see me and friends would say, "You should start a blog." I was on a cruise and I decided to start Rolling Funky---which was just about sharing my lifestyle and love of fashion---in hopes that someone would find it positive whether you have a disability or not. It was more about seeing someone different.

When I looked at blogs, I couldn't find one that was by a wheelchair user or someone with a disability that was giving a positive outlook on things. I didn't want negativity.

The modeling came afterward. I was about to celebrate my first year blogging when I was scouted by two women from the agency I'm with now. They just spotted me going down the road. My boyfriend and I were out and they approached me, said they were with a modeling agency and that I could do a test shoot. I did some photos, and I got a contract straight away. Funny enough, I always wanted to be a model, and as a teen, I was told I was unsuitable.

With the blog, this whole social media thing, and putting out photos, everything escalated over time. I began working with brands and here I am today!

Image by Aaron Cheeseman

As an influencer, how has the COVID-19 quarantine affected you? How have you coped?

It's been OK. I spend a lot of time at home, and I'm used to being on my own. Unless I'm going to fashion events or parties, or I have a speaking engagement, I'm home. So, being inside doesn't really bother me. In the weeks leading up to this, I spent most of the week at home because shoots were cancelled or events I was meant to do had been postponed. At one point, I was at home 10 days straight, and that was before social distancing was put into effect. I also spent the whole month of January at home because I was sick.

I tend to avoid the news. Not that I don't know what's going on in the world, but I care about my mental psyche, so I limit my intake.

Some might ask, "How are you so upbeat?" but I think there's no point in worrying about something you have no control over. I know it can be easier said than done, but it's something I've had to learn, especially with managing my medical condition and disability. I've had to learn to detach myself---how to not get myself worked up or stressed. If I do feel a bit tense, it's about knowing how to let go.

How do you practice self-care?

I dance. I work out. I have a local center around the corner from me. I do a lot of upper-body exercises, including a bit of boxing. Battle ropes and slam balls are really good, especially when you've got a bit of frustration. The endorphins--I feel amazing afterward! I feel like whatever this world has to throw at me, I'm ready! When I was having to adjust to my new normal of becoming a wheelchair user, I've found that fitness and just working out--even just stretching---helped me mentally.

I also love music. I like to dance to songs that are upbeat. I love Beyonce and Nicki Minaj, who will always hold a dear place in my heart because when I was still adjusting [to being in a wheelchair], the Pink Friday album was just released.

One of the songs that really helped lift me out of depression was Nicki's "I'm the Best," and when you sing that song over and over, after a while, it's like, regardless of this situation, I am the best. There's another song she did with Drake, "Moment 4 Life", with a line that goes, "But to live doesn't mean you're alive." I was like, wow. That hit me, because at the time I was existing and not living.

Image by Mark Brown

What changed when you began to accept your new normal, having gone from using crutches to being in a wheelchair?

[In the process] of accepting my new normal, I'd go get my hair and my nails done. I never used to wear heels because I was always a bit tomboyish, and it was quite difficult growing up. Now I wear heels! When I started to pay attention to what I was eating, got into exercising, and lost weight, I began to embrace what life was. I started experimenting with clothes and I began wearing more fitted things. I felt better. I also started imagining what outfits would look like sitting down and accepting my new body shape, and things started snowballing from there.

As my comfort grew, my confidence grew, and I'd try outfits and say, 'Yeah I look cute.' Sometimes you have to look yourself in the mirror and say "Yas!" It can do so much for your mental well-being. Have a positive dialogue with yourself.

My boyfriend would say, 'Yes, babe you look hot!' and we would go out more and do things. I began traveling again.

How do you conquer fear or anxiety and continue to nurture self-confidence?

With my Jamaican grandparents being in my life growing up, we went to a very Caribbean-influenced church, so a belief in God and spirituality is ingrained in me. Being grateful is also something that was part of my upbringing and is part of who I am today. I think it makes you humble. My grandmother was so brave to come to a country where she knew nobody and start a new life---leave the old one behind. It takes guts. If I fear something, I have to tackle it head on.

Truly, I should fear nothing but God. If there's something that makes me scared, I can't have it hanging over me.

[When] I finally got my head around it all and began to get used to my new normal, I slowly but surely put goals in place and achieved those goals. I lost weight and learned to like what I saw in the mirror. Over time, I just decided I'm going to live my best life.

Image by Mark Brown

What advice do you have for aspiring influencers or people who want to create a platform?

Stay true to yourself. Share your passions, and do what you're passionate about. If it's fashion, do that. Whatever it may be, do it and do it well. Don't try to live up to someone else's imprint. You shouldn't compare yourself to anyone---especially online---and give it a go. You never know what might happen. I remember at one point, it was like 'If I could get to 100 followers on Instagram, I'd be so happy.' I never thought I'd have thousands. Do what you love and be authentic about it.

For more of Clara, follow her on Instagram.

Courtesy of Clara Holmes

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Amira Unplugged / MTV

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A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

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