Limitless Beauty: Issa Rae's EA Defines Beauty On Her Own Terms
It is 6:30 AM on the West Coast, and a nurse arrives to help Candis Welch get ready for another long day. Later on, the nurse will return to help Candis get ready for bed so she can get a few hours of sleep before another busy day.
For Welch, her entire life is test of will. At just 18 months, the LA-based, 33-year old was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a disease that leaves patients unable to walk. For Welch, this is a call to action. The disability advocate spends her days working at the Los Angeles Service Homeless Authority while being Issa Rae’s right-hand woman as her Executive Assistant. If that is not enough, Welch plans on going back to school and maintaining her blog Can Can on Wheelz-- all while on LA transit, without missing a single beat.
“There are days where I'm like, ‘You can go back home, get on government assistance.’ Then I'm like, ‘No, I wasn't put on this earth just to be a part of the system. I want to change the system,’” she says. “I want to change the way people look at me. So I challenge myself.”
I talked to Welch about her journey and how she defines beauty on her own terms, particularly as a woman working in the entertainment world.
Peep her empowering story below.
How do you define beauty?
“I don’t think beauty is completely external at all. The world can see you as beautiful, but if you have insecurity, lack of self confidence, you will never see yourself as beautiful. The media defines beauty as external and they try to define it, but I think as human beings, it’s not external. I’d look at all the celebrities or even the Instagram girls, I'd be like, ‘Why don't I look like that when I go to work?’ But you can't be jealous of somebody else because you have no idea what it took for them to get to that point or what they are going through in that exact moment. You have to have a firm sense of self, to be in this world, to be in the entertainment industry. You have to have a rooted sense of self.”
Has having a disability ever affected your sense of beauty?
“All the time. As a little girl, I knew I was different but when you are a kid, you didn’t care. You just want to play. I was always a little bit chubbier. So I felt pressure. I felt pressure sometimes from my family that I needed to drop weight to look beautiful and I held that in my head. They always made me feel like I was smart and that I could accomplish things, but I felt if I would have been a little bit more skinnier, the conversation might have been a little different. So I held that until my early thirties. I'll look at girls in wheelchairs like, ‘Why am I so chubby? What am I doing differently?”’
“I remembered in my twenties constantly seeking validation for men. I’d think, ‘I'm in a wheelchair who we will think I am sexy? Well if he does, I must be sexy.’ Just watching the Instagram girls and how clothes lay on them. I'm in a wheelchair so my clothes don’t fit the same way as someone who's walking. So I definitely have insecurities just to be honest. I do, but I think the older I become, it's just all noise. Like at the end of the day I have to be able to shut it out. I have to know that I am more valuable than just the clothes that I wear.”
Does working in the entertainment industry make you more insecure?
“No, because of who I work for. Before I worked for (Issa), I worked as a freelance publicist. I did the red carpets and it is superficial (AF). But meeting and working with Issa...she is unapologetically herself.”
What has Issa taught you?
“Issa taught me that if you put in the work and drown out the noise, the work will speak for itself. Her work ethic is psycho. That work ethnic, you don’t see that because so many people are in Hollywood to get to the fame. Issa is here because (she) wanted to change the course of what was shown. That inspires me.”
Dare me to:
“Love my life because my life is no walk in the park. My life involves a lot of pain. My life involves a lot of medical stuff; doctors telling me (stuff) I don’t want to hear. I have to learn how to love my life as is because I don’t have a (crystal ball). I have to love (my body) today, tomorrow and until the day I die because if I don’t love it, I am going to be bitter and miserable ...so I have love my life as it is.”
Interview condensed for clarity.