Agency: Zebedee Management
Claim to Fame: The British model played a huge roll in the Body Victory campaign for major lingerie retailer Curvy Kate.
When Clara Holmes was swaying in the middle of a club dance floor or sporting stilettos and tapered jeans on her way to the corner market, she wasn’t intending on impressing anyone but herself. But those unused to seeing wheelchair users thriving were inspired by her confidence and enchanted with her style. They wanted to know who she was and what she was about and eventually, she decided to show them.
In an exclusive interview with Hello Beautiful, she shares how her personal desire to live her best life turned into being rushed by people who wanted to know her secret, a blogging passion project, and ultimately a new gig as a professional model.
“If somebody said to me five years ago that I would model in my underwear I would tell them ‘you’re nuts’,” said Holmes.
“No way I would be in a photoshoot modeling in underwear, in lingerie. No not me! I would not do that. And then putting that up on social media? No, you’re crazy!”
Her journey towards being a part-time paid model began with people’s fascination with her. It seemed like no matter where she went people wanted to learn more about her life.
“People would be like ‘Oh my gosh! You’re amazing!’ and I’m like ‘Why? I’m just dancing.’ People would be like ‘Oh my goodness! Wow, do you blog? And I would be like ‘No’ and they would be like, ‘Well, you should.’”
Eventually all of the attention she was getting caused Holmes to see her life through the perspective of a stranger.“I know a lot of people kind of live an influencer blogger life purely for that but that’s not their real life, whereas that is my real life. This is my real life,” she explained. “If you bumped into me in the corner shop I’d still have on heels. My boyfriend is like ‘Where are you going? You’re going around the corner! And I’m like ‘Yea so? I’m wearing my heels!’”
It took time before she started to see that not everyone had the courage to wear red stiletto boots with the phrase “Yasss Queen” emblazoned across the front or take a solo trip to a far-off land simply because they wanted to see what it had to offer.
“I started to be like ‘okay’ and I just thought to myself ‘Do you know what? When I look at my life, I suppose that it is pretty cool. I go to nice places, nice bars, nice restaurants. I travel. I’ve got a sense of style.”
She continues, “Why not show [it]? Maybe I should show people that there’s more to someone. Just because they have a disability or they’re a wheelchair user…there’s more to us than just our conditions or there’s more to me. I am not my chair.”
The blog was a way to not only educate but fight back against some of the ignorance she was encountering. “I used to get a lot of comments like, ‘Oh you look amazing for a wheelchair user’ and I was like ‘what does that mean? Or ‘I’ve never seen a wheelchair user that looks so trendy or so stylish’ and I was like ‘Just because I’m disabled or I’m a wheelchair user doesn’t mean that I don’t like fashion.’ She said she considered it a way to, “chart her truth.”
Others may be preoccupied with how her body functions with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, but Holmes is decidedly not. She is matter of fact about being a wheelchair user (a term she prefers to labels that carry strong restrictive conations).
She’s forthcoming about how it affects her fashion choices. “I like footwear whether it’s boots or shoes any type of heel. First of all, it has to be a minimum of 4 inches ‘cause I don’t have to walk in them. I want the best high heel possible.”
Her preference for the best extends past her accessories. H&M, Zara, and Just Fab are some of her favorite on budget brands and she cites Tom Ford and Victoria Beckham as her favorite high-end designers. She believes in investing in the “kind of items that you can pick up in ten years’ time and they’ll still be on trend.” She picks up some of these items from Guess and Stella McCartney brands she supports for their aversion to using animal products due to her vegan beliefs.
It’s the reflective spirit that influences her style, made her think about her connection to all of God’s creatures, and caused the birth of Rollin Funky that led Holmes to develop the glamorous lifestyle people were so obsessed with.
“I can’t really say I’ve found myself again because I’m actually different to the person I was um but I kind of embraced my new life and with that my confidence grew. I had a bit of depression, I beat that. I just became more settled in who I am. By understanding who I am, I was ready to embrace the future.”
She had no idea that future would contain two more people chasing after her.
“I was out with my boyfriend. I was actually coming back from like a christening and we were about to celebrate my blog’s first birthday and I was approached by two women from Zebedee Management. I wheeled past and they saw me, and they just ran towards me. They said they were from a modeling agency that represents people with disabilities. They both looked like crazy women! They were out of breath, they didn’t have no business cards, no nothing because they had left everything in the restaurant to run after us. My boyfriend just looked at them and was like ‘Uh, are you okay?’”
Once the ladies caught their breath, they were able to sell Holmes on applying her charisma to modeling. “I went for a test shoot the next day and they were like “You’re amazing. We’re gonna sign you immediately and they gave me a contract and signed me to the agency and that was that. I know it sounds crazy those things don’t happen today, but it did.”
While Rollin Funky was a way for her to express her “true self” modeling has been a way for her to try what it’s like to be someone else, something just as exciting.
“Being in front of the camera for me as a model I can be whoever I want to be, and you can take on a persona and I like that. You can bring out your alter ego or you can bring out a character you’re not normally being or whoever you want to be. And that’s the beauty of fashion as well you can take on anybody you can be any character that you want to be.”