Candis is proof that limits only exist in the mind.
A true definition of a hustler. Candis holds both a Bachelors degree and Masters degree in Public Administration, she works full-time for the Los Angeles Service Homeless Authority, is Issa Rae’s full-time Executive Assistant, manages her own blog CanCan on Wheelz and recently went back to school to get her Real Estate License. Are you inspired and exhausted yet? There’s more — she’s conquering all her goals while on her wheelchair.
If you know me, you know I’m a huge fan of Issa Rae (she’s definitely on my vision board), so when I was asked to interview her assistant I was super excited. As I learned more about her, I realized that was only a small piece of her greatness. I am now a fan and supporter of Candis.
At just 18 months, Candis underwent her first surgery and was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy — a disease that affects the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. At 12 years old she was faced with a tough decision to make — have an extremely extensive and dangerous corrective surgery or only have 6 months to live. She bravely chose to have the surgery saying she rather risk it than die on a timetable. The surgery was successful, but she was forced to be on bedrest and homeschooled for a year.
Making her Parents Proud
Candis’ face lights up when she talks about her parents. They were adamant about her having a normal life and instilled that despite her condition she was a normal child and wasn’t disabled. She recalls always seeing her father work hard and it’s clear that she gets her hustler spirit from him. Unknowingly, She followed in his footsteps — he also received his Masters in Public Administration and his Real Estate License. Although those times were extremely tough and taxing, she always had the love of her parents to lean on. However, that would change when she abruptly lost her father to lung cancer. A year after her father’s death, she also lost her stepfather. She ends this portion of the conversation by saying she hopes she’s making her parents proud. How could they not be? They raised a true warrior.
At 18 years old, Candis landed her first job as a transcriber at the Disabled Student Services department at the college she was attending. It was during that time that she decided she wanted to move out on her own. She recalls her mom being reluctant about the whole situation, but once Candis’ mind is made up she makes it happen. That period really taught her how to take care of herself and her household. Her mother was always encouraging her to work a little harder past the difficulties she faced while in school. “Seeing my mothers face when I graduated with my Bachelors was one thing, but seeing her face when I graduated with my Master was indescribable.”
Work Ethic Unmatched
“Straight out of college I had dreams of being a publicist. I quickly realized that being a publicist would mean not being able to have bad days and my body isn’t built for that. I knew I couldn’t work in the entertainment industry in the traditional way.” Although her career as a publicist was brief, she still put in work and long hours, sometimes having to get on the bus late at night because car services weren’t available. Even to this day, she doesn’t call out of work unless she truly has to and works for Issa 24/7 without missing a beat. Nobody cares if you’ve had a bad day — nobody cared that I didn’t have a car and was taking the bus. No excuses. “You either want it or you don’t. If you don’t want it, that’s fine. Not everyone is built to be a boss or hustler.
“We all get the same 24 hours, how are you going to spend yours?”
Working with Issa Rae
“I was working at eharmony when one day they announced everyone was being laid off. As I’m leaving the office, my friend hit me up and asked what I was doing. I told him I had just been laid off. He told me about a girl who was doing a web series that was looking for an assistant. I asked if it was paid and he said yes. He hooked me up and got me an interview. I obviously got it.” She remembers getting on the bus to go to her interview with Issa, and even though she ended up getting lost, she still made it on time. She states that Issa was the first person to not mention her wheelchair. She told me, “You have a degree and my friend said you’re a hard worker. Let’s make this happen.” Candis has been working with Issa for the last 5 years and says “She taught me If the work ethic is not there, there is nothing to celebrate. Because what are you achieving while you’re at the party? You have to focus.”
“Nobody talks about what it’s like to date and be bullied and navigating life at this stage in life. Guys think that because I’m in a wheelchair I’m going to take their bullshit. I’m not a pity case. And I refuse to be with someone who sees me that way. If they try to impress me by throwing money at me, that’s not going to go over well. I make more money than you. You say travel, you mean Vegas. I say travel, I mean Europe. I have more degrees than you. I’m old school — you’re going to court me, no Netflix and chill. I don’t want to wonder if you like me, you’re going to show it. There was a guy that called me his little wheelchair friend. I told him he would never speak to me again. It’s not funny, it shows how they see me.”
“People tell me to let one of the things go; my blog, 9-5, real estate license — but I can’t. They’re all equally important and will help secure my future. People don’t realize the cost of everyday life, it’s expensive to be disabled and no one is talking about it.” When Candis travels she needs to pay for a nurse to acompany her, which includes their flight and hotel. So, a trip that should cost $1,000 would be more than double that amount. Her body was not built to last and work a 9-5. “My body is already breaking down. I have to start thinking smart. What am I going to do now to secure my future and what if I don’t get to see the future? It’s important to plan for the future but I also like to live in the moment. Every time I get sick, it’s a fear of mine because it can kill me. I have to be okay with the fact that I may not make it. I have to travel as much as I can and work as hard as I can.” She started her blog to take us on this journey with her. When she launched her website, she was afraid people wouldn’t care, but to her surprise, it was extremely well-received. “I want to empower little girls in the middle of nowhere to be like — if she can do it, I can too.”