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.


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

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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