Ariish Wol @arrriish / https://www.instagram.com/arrriish/ has been modelling for just over 2 years. She was born in South Sudan and grew up in Canada. After browsing the internet for agencies that had plus-size or curve women on their books, she walked into an agency in Montreal. Her first job was for Vogue Italia and she has gone on to front numerous fashion campaigns, from H&M to Thierry Mugler.
Ariish has epilepsy. She has survived abuse and faced many emotional traumas along the way.
“I got my first seizure when I was 12 then was diagnosed when I was 14. It really hit me and I found it very hard to accept. Especially because there is so much bad context towards epilepsy in my community and especially being a woman of colour. It brought a lot of dysfunction into my family, many saying I was the devil’s child. I was pushed away and went down a really bad path. I fell into hanging out with older people, drinking more, partying, sleeping less. I was being rebellious, but I was basically screaming for help. I felt like ‘Nobody wants me to be around. If I leave or if I die from this out in the street, no-one is going to care’.
I have myoclonic seizures, with muscles jerking on one side of my body. I’ve never had one standing up. I’ve always been in bed, early in the mornings. It starts with a stiffness and auras. I’m conscious for the first bit of it and then as soon as it’s done, I wake back up and I’m just drained. My triggers are a build-up of things: lack of sleep, a lot of stress, if I push my body too hard when working out. Bad eating habits can trigger it, sometimes alcohol too.
Coming into this industry, at first I was quite frightened. I’d never had an episode during the day. But in the back of my head, I was still thinking “what if maybe the flashing light triggered an episode?” This industry isn’t for everybody. The camera just drains you, wearing heels, different makeup changes, you’re always travelling abroad, you’re always mobile. Seeing how much pressure and stress it puts on the body and mind, I soon realised I needed to take extra care of my physical and mental health.
People at work are often very surprised when I tell them I have epilepsy. They can get quite scared, too. These invisible disabilities aren’t written all over our bodies. But people are starting to understand and they want to learn about it. Likewise for me, before coming into this industry I didn’t think of these models as people. Just pretty faces standing in front of the camera. Just trying to sell clothes and getting paid massive amounts of money. But you can never judge somebody; who knows
what they’re facing behind closed doors? I have made good friends and I hope to meet even more amazing people.
My next campaigns are for H&M, Matalan and River Island. Then I’m going to Paris for Thierry Mugler. They’re like my family. Casey (Cadwallader, creative director) wants to build inclusivity and diversity within body shapes, complexions and different backgrounds. Real people. So, I’m here for it!
One of my greatest dreams is to work on a fashion campaign for people with epilepsy, a collab with Zara, H&M or Vogue. I believe that bringing more awareness to society and this industry can really save someone’s life.